When solitary activity of writing is too isolating

“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” – Jessamyn West

Writing lends itself to solitary lifestyle. Writers must spend time in their own thoughts, and penning that next scene often is done by oneself rather than as an out loud, collaborative activity. Because of this, many who love to write are introverts by nature. But what happens when writing leads to deep isolation that threatens your health?

Indeed, psychiatric research has shown that writers are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia. They also have higher suicide rates than the general population.

That shouldn’t be too surprising. As writers set upon achieving their goal of publishing a book, sometimes that writing time diminishes the amount of time available for their families, loved ones, friends and colleagues. The result is a forced isolation from the world.

That’s when loneliness can set in…and it’s in just such vulnerable moments that you begin to question your endeavor and then yourself: Does anybody even care of I write this book? Will anybody ever read it once published? If they do, is my writing really good enough to be respected by anyone? Like water spilled on a table, the negative thoughts soon cover the entire surface of your writing efforts from your passion to your creativity.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can avoid having your writing lead to isolation:
• Talk with other writers – Writers groups, alpha and beta readers, even editors, can talk with you about writing and understand all the inner tension you’re experiencing. Consider attending a writing workshop or taking a class about your book’s topic.
• Write a little less – Don’t lower your standards but lower your output so you can spend time meeting with your friends or being with your family. After all, you can’t be a good writer if you find it a negative experience due to forced isolation.
• Write in public places – While not a substitute for quality conversation, being around others and interacting with some of them can help lessen the sense of isolation you might get from writing in your own home. Coffee shops, public libraries, and cafes all are great places to write.

Of course, some writers are bothered to no end by constant interruption, by having their solitariness intruded upon when creating. Certainly all authors crave a “time” of one’s own to write. The challenge is to not allow such seclusion to become a way of life to your detriment, so heed the warning signs, given by our feelings of loneliness and separation.