Alone With My 500 Trillion Girlfriends

(The title will make more sense once you’re read Transistor, I promise.)

Writing is, by its very nature, a solitary pursuit.  Sure, there are people who work with writing partners.  I’ve even done that a time or two myself.  But even when you’re working with someone, the actual writing is done alone, with nothing but the voices in your head for company.  I’ll tell you right now, the voices aren’t very good company.  They are picky and demanding and usually a lot more interested in stopping the asshole trying to murder their girlfriend than they are in casual conversation with you.

I knew this when I got into writing.  It’s one of the reasons I got into writing.  It was a way to occupy myself when I was alone, which was a lot.  But know something doesn’t always make it easy to deal with.  So, what do you do?  If you’re a writer, how do you deal with the loneliness that comes with writing?

That’s a good question, and one I’ve seen lots of different answers to.  Some people will get together and form online writing groups where you get together at a specific time every day and do your writing.  It turns writing into a sort of social activity.  You’re still alone when you’re actually putting the words on the page, but there’s socialization before and after the designated period.  I’d done this, and it actually works really well if you can find a group that shows up every day.

Some people will form critique groups where you share your work, and them once every week, or every other week you get together and talk about it, give each other feedback, and advice.  I’ve done this, and while it’s not nearly as immediate in terms of social feedback, it can help, because it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re screaming into the void without any feedback at all.

Some people will get their partners to read their work.  I’ve done this, and it can work, but it can also be dangerous.  I’ve seen it destroy relationships and crush dreams, but I’ve also seen it do wonders for helping people understand their own work and helping them grow as an author.  All I will say is, if you choose this strategy, tread carefully.

Some people will put together a group of alpha readers.  People who will read as you go along, and give you feedback and encouragement.  I do this currently.  It keeps me sane.  It’s how I’ve turned out four, or by the time you read this, possibly five novels in the since October of last year.  Being able to toss up a chapter and get excited comments on the fact that your romantic leads have finally kissed, or complaints that the chapter ended on a cliff hanger, or so on and so forth is a great way to keep yourself moving.

Some people don’t want to talk about or share their work until it’s done.  I’ve done this.  It sucks, in my opinion, but some people swear by it.  I can’t see the appeal myself, but some writers are afraid that any words of criticism will destroy their motivation or passion for the work and prefer not to let anyone see it until the first draft, at least, is done.

Ultimately though, while a lot of people use writing as a form of therapy, which God knows, I’d done, writing can be detrimental to your mental health.  If you want to last as a writer long term, you need to find a way to keep your writing from isolating you, because complete solitude is not good for you.  A lot of authors stress setting aside time where you can be alone to write, but don’t forget to set aside time to reconnect to people once you’re done.  Because no matter how vibrant and alive your characters feel, they aren’t real, and you need real human connection.