A Not So Lonely Pursuit

“We write alone. But we don’t have to be alone.”

I forget who said that. But it’s very true. Writing is a solitary experience. No one else can pound on those keys for you. You might be able to refine ideas with a group, but you have to come up with them. The fact that each writer has a voice means that only she can write a particular story.

And yet. And yet…

Most writers I know are introverts. That is, they need alone time. Need it like humans need oxygen. Like some people need chocolate — or coffee. Oh, they like parties and all, but there comes a time when you need to “shut the door” and power down.

One of the things that frustrates me occasionally is someone saying, “You can’t possibly be an introvert.” Why not? Because I can talk to strangers? Because I’ll stalk down that guy at Bouchercon who looked horribly familiar, just so I can figure out who he is? That would be being shy. Never said I was shy.

Bouchercon last October was an amazing experience. From the readers I met at socials, to the writers I met at the bar, the energy was intense. When I got home, all I wanted to do was work on my WIP (okay, right after I took a nap).

Same thing last week when Hank Phillippi Ryan came to town on her tour for What You See. Listening to Hank always energizes me, makes me want to jump back into my writing with abandon. And getting to share a glass of wine and a slice of pizza? Bonus.

And I love hanging with my critique group. Last night we went to a local library for an event, talking about our writing and our journeys. Our monthly sessions often encompass talking about family, friends, and life as much as talking about our submitted pages.

But here’s the thing. After all these events? I crave alone time. Just me, a bubble bath, and a good book. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Not even my family. My soul needs that peace to maintain my sanity. Too much running around is a Bad Thing. The holidays are killer. All those people. I was initially going to have a roomie for Bouchercon. I wound up being on my own, and it was probably the best thing for me.

The wonderful thing is that my writing tribe – my community, my “peeps” – get it. Many of them are exactly the same way. We have loads of fun together. And then we all want to go our separate ways.

We need social. Those hours we spend mired in our own heads, alternating between “this is great” and “I suck”? They are only alleviated by some community. Often other writers, but always people who care. Plus, social events are priceless, if only for the story ideas you can get while eavesdropping on conversations, or wondering what that person in the off-beat clothes standing off to the side is really up to.

Social is great. Just — don’t take it personally when, at the end of the day, I slink off to my hotel room for some much-needed alone time.

Mary Sutton | @mary_sutton73

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Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She's worked for fifteen years in the corporate world, but finds making things up is far more satisfying than writing software manuals. A lifelong mystery fan, her short fiction has been published in online magazines Uppagus and Mysterical-e. She has also had stories included in Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales, Blood on the Bayou (the 2016 Bouchercon anthology), Fish Out of Water, and Mystery Most Historical. She is a past president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at http://lizmilliron.com, find her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/LizMilliron, or follow her on Twitter (@LizMilliron).

11 thoughts on “A Not So Lonely Pursuit”

  1. Yep. Absolutely! I love the distinction you make between introvert and shy. I am a shy introvert, which could be very painful if not for my martial arts training.

  2. Well said, Mary. Every writer will recognize him or herself in this post. Unless they write social columns, but even then, I bet they crave alone time.

  3. It’s all so very true, isn’t it? We want to be alone–but then we enjoy being around people–but then we want to be alone! I agree with Kait; every writer will recognize themselves here.

  4. Think that’s a SinC motto–about writing alone but not being alone–heard them say that at the Sisters in Crime breakfast at Bouchercon. It made me feel a bit teary, honestly, as well as “understood”! 😉

    Great post, Mary. Good that you’ve figured out what you need. That’s very healthy.

  5. I want to be left alone when I (finally!) have the time to write. But whenever I am sitting at my desk, it seems to be a signal for the entire family, including the dog, to hang out and talk to me (yes, even the dog, who makes this kind of whining sound when bored.) Forget the convention, I just need the hotel room.

  6. This is so me. There is a huge difference between being an introvert and being shy or socially awkward/impolite. Although I can shy too. So I have canned stories that I use to get myself warmed up. If you know me long enough you know my stories… ask my husband. lol

    I went to my first big writing convention and the only thing that got me threw was the train ride between the conference center and my house every night. I needed to just zone.

  7. Carmen, I hear you about the signal. It seems to go out ANY time I’m finally alone and able to write/read/sleep/relax.

    Katherine, I bet that train was awesome. Something I can totally see myself doing.

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