All By Myself
People sometimes ask me how I deal with the isolation of writing. I’ve recently been in touch with a former co-worker from my days as a hospital social worker and communicating with her reminds me of what it was like to work with other people. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that! The hospital had a large social work department and my memory is of a deep bond between all of us. We did some emotionally difficult work, but we had each other to turn to for advice, support and—often–laughter. The work was so rewarding, and being part of a family of fellow social workers made it even more so. Nevertheless, during the years I worked there, I was writing my first novel in every speck of my free time. I adored my job, but I had a passion for storytelling that wouldn’t leave me alone.
Alone. That word brings me back to the question of isolation. One writes alone. It’s certainly true that most writers tend to be more introverted than extroverted. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re shy or that they can’t be outgoing. Rather it means that their minds and spirits are fed by that precious time alone. They need it. They can’t create without it. That is certainly true of me, but I also need frequent doses of other people in my life. On the Myers-Briggs Personality Type scale, I fall smack in the middle between Introversion and Extraversion. While great chunks of time alone are necessary for my writing, they’re also. . . well, lonely.
I’m lucky that I live with someone who is also self-employed, so it is a bit like having a co-worker. John and I work in different parts of the house, but we stop to chitchat occasionally or to gripe with each other over computer problems or talk about our work. It also helps that we’re both in creative fields and seem to have similar requirements for alone and together time and that we’re both committed one hundred percent to what we’re doing. There is never the temptation to just goof off during the day.
So while it’s great having John nearby, the thing that really saves me from a sense of isolation is having friends who are also published novelists and who are as serious about their careers as I am. I’ve been lucky to have always had this outlet. When I lived in Virginia, Emilie Richards and Patricial McLinn and I got together frequently to brainstorm and talk shop. And I’ve blogged often about the retreats I go on with my group of writer friends here in North Carolina. We stay in touch by email and between our getaways, we meet for lunch whenever we can. I go home from those meet-ups renewed and ready to get back to work. When you work alone, it’s critical to find a way to connect with other people, not only to avoid insanity but to help you feed the creative well.
It’s hard for me to remember what it was like to have genuine co-workers. . . and to work for someone else. What I miss most about it is, frankly, the financial benefits of a “real” job: The security of a regular paycheck, help with the health insurance premiums, and most of all, an employer to pay half of that killer 15% FICA payment. (Do not quit your day job until you’ve thought all this through!)
Yes, it’s costly( and sometimes lonely) to work all by myself. But getting to work at something I love? Priceless.
That is one of the main reasons I donot quit my day job Diane…the security of a paycheck and the benefits of health ins, vacation pay (I have 5 weeks this year!), sick pay and all the other perks…and I love the people I work with…as much as I’d love to work full time from home with my art career, the benefits of my job outway the dream…so I compromise and work 40 hrs per week at the office and all other free time in my art studio…Diane, you are living your dream and if it’s lonely sometimes its certainly worth it…you have John and pups…and you can always drive over to Starbucks to work…when I work in my studio I love the solitude…and I peek my head out sometimes to give Gary and Kramer a big hug.
I think you have the best of both worlds, Margo. (5 weeks vacation! When you’re self-employed, you can kiss vacations goodbye…)
Diane, when I’m on vacation from the office I’m usually spending it at home doing my ‘art’ job so its not really a vacation away from home…but, I love being on vacation at home in my art studio (even tho I’m really working)…its a form of self employment and I love the freedom of it. (-O:
I envy you! You have the perfect mate. I think what I’d love the most is never having to dress up or wear makeup. Lol!
Denise, I love not having to dress up. I am not a dress up kind of gal. “Dressy” to me means my best jeans.
Diane-I think you have the best of both worlds too…you seem so content…I miss the days of staying home and raising the children…I don’t miss the days of owning the Hallmark Store and working 365 days a year before we could afford to hire others to help…my husband hired 5 women to replace ME when we divorced…I miss the 8 years of being single, going to college, and being so poor I was not sure what I would eat…I really do-the days were simple…I am again single, and I am also content…however, my job is stressful (though rewarding)…As teachers, we have two months off in the summer-not paid-in fact we are one of the few professions that receives no paid vacation…I still love it…although I am nearing the end of my “short” career. I have discovered that one does not need “a lot” of material possessions to be happy-it is having time that matters. Can’t wait to hear about your WIP…I am eagerly waiting-and trying (not so well) to be patient.
Brenda, you are so right…the most important thing to me in my career(s) is having ‘time’ and ‘freedom’…and like you, I can’t wait to hear about Diane’s WIP for THE MIDWIFE’S CONFESSION!!…(hint, hint Diane!!)
I’ll blog soon about my work on The Midwife’s Confession, though it seems so strange to blog about a book that won’t be out for over a year. Yet that’s what’s consuming my mind and days right now.
I agree about not needing a lot of material possessions. . . except a condo on the beach. Ha!
A condo at the beach is a must…it is for stress relief…I do not think that is a luxury…
You are kind, Brenda.
I agree Diane and Brenda…a beach house/condo for stress relief…a reward to renew self.