I’ve repeatedly heard that writing is a lonely and solo profession because of the demanding nature of creative thought. Choosing the right words to string into a perfect sentence takes thoughtful and uninterrupted concentration. Building that sentence into full-bodied paragraphs to structure an 85,000 word novel involves thousands of focused hours and a hearty in-house supply of coffee or tea.
There’s a reason we whisper in libraries where other people are absorbing great thoughts and it has nothing to do with disturbing the books housed on the shelves. It’s about the way we activate our minds to think through and construct creative thoughts. I sometimes wonder about the monks working away in their scriptoriums. I’m sure their vows of silence certainly helped.
Distractions are the bane of my output. Once I’m in the flow and I get disturbed it’s almost impossible to pick up the threads of that broken creative thought and successfully knit it back together. Sure, I might get the original idea down on paper, but somehow the elegance of that thought evaporates under my questing fingers even as I strive to capture it. My readers may never know that the thought break occurred, but I still flinch whenever I re-read that recast sentence knowing that somehow something better was lost.
Some writers are better at this necessary self-isolation because they have naturally introverted personalities. These writers are happiest when left alone to explore their vision and build their brave new worlds. Introverts generally hate marketing and self-promotion side of the business although they admit it’s a necessary evil. Extroverted writers use self-discipline to block off specific hours of each day cut off from the distraction of family and friends to ensure they hit their daily word count. Both approaches are right. Writers know that we need to do whatever it takes to get our stories told.
The irony is that as soon as we’re done with one story we start doing it all over again!
It’s not all grimness and toil. One benefit of a writing life that I want to celebrate more is being part of an extraordinarily welcoming and inclusive community of like-minded souls especially after 2020, our isolation year. Despite rarely leaving my home, I still felt fully engaged between reading the daily ListServ digests, the burgeoning weekly Zoom meetings and the super informative podcasts and online conferences. Yes, I did miss seeing everyone face-to-face and meeting up for coffee, drinks or sharing a joke or a meal, but I believe that day will come. To cement my belief in the future, I’ve registered for the 2021 Bouchercon convention to be held in New Orleans, LA in August. Happy days! I can already imagine the noise level in the NOLA Hilton’s bar.
And one social media benefit are the pop-up reminders of previous fun get togethers. Eight years ago, the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime produced its LUCKY CHARMS – 12 Crime Tales anthology. A photo of our launch event popped up on my Facebook page recently. I’m still warmed when I see all of those happy shining smiles.
With the new year, let’s take a moment to recognize the true and extraordinary gift of writerly fellowship, community, and friends. Here’s hoping for renewed focus and a joyous 2021!