Let’s face it; being a writer can be very isolating. It takes persistence, endurance and incredibly long hours. Luckily writers groups can be found in most major cities. When I decided to become a novelist after years of freelance writing I was fortunate enough to live in Houston. The city brought me a wealth of knowledge and support. However, such resources are not always available and can come and go with various stages of your life. I know about this first hand. From holding jobs, to moves, to having a baby there are many situations that can keep writers from feeling the love of the great writer’s community.
I understand this very well. I’ve missed access to conferences both big and small. I’ve missed workshops and continued education. I’ve missed having coffee and chatting about plot holes and character drama. But writers don’t need to suffer from what they miss. While the personal contact is still missing for me I have found ways to overcome what I call, “the isolated writer syndrome.”
First of all, what is an isolated writer? I break this into three categories. How did I come up with these categories? Personal experience. I have personally experienced each of these points and can agree with anyone that none of these scenarios are great for the writer in you. But rather than whine, we can understand the difficulties and find a solution.
1. The parent writer
2. The long-distance writer
3. The I have an actual paying job writer
I have always been an organized person who loves making lists and developing well thought out strategies to accomplish my goals. I thought when I was expecting my daughter that this whole writing mommy thing would be a cakewalk. I had plans and had plotted out strategies to accomplish them. Then my daughter was born and WOW was I wrong. My plans went out the window and those lists, well they were spit up on or either torn apart by playful hands.
On top of just trying to keep my professional life in order I also was feeling isolated. Of course I didn’t have time to make it to monthly writing meetings or meet fellow writers for coffee. I was just hoping to make my deadline. Having a child easily isolates writers.
When I refer to the “long-distance” writer and I’m talking about awkward long-distance relationships. By my definition, this is a writer who lives in a town, city or currently in my case, a country where there are no writing groups, workshops or conferences. After starting to write novels in Houston I moved to Arkansas. Yes, they had a writing group but it met at lunchtime at a library. Obviously I couldn’t take a baby to a library so my days of writing groups were over.
Then we moved to Saudi and need I even say it? Yep, there is nothing writing support related here.
For many writers though the feeling of isolation comes from something far less dramatic than having a baby or moving to remote or exotic places. When I started my freelance writing career I had a day job. I worked as first an advertising director and then a creative services director for a major television station. I kept long hours and worked hard to fit in my freelance writing in any available spare time.
Whether you are feeling isolated from work, family commitments, or where you live there are ways now to help combat that isolation feeling. You’re experiencing it this very moment. If you are reading my blog then you have Internet. The Internet is full of resources for you to explore and experience. You can even attend a writing conference from the comfort of your computer chair. You don’t have to stress about a conference wardrobe. Tired moms with burp rags on their shoulders are welcome and you can have as many cups of coffee you need if you need to tune in from International time zones.
One great online conference is coming up this weekend. WANA International is a great online resource for writers and they hold WANA Con a couple times a year so that writers who may struggle to make it to physical conferences can find the network and resources that they crave.
Thanks to the Internet writers are finding more ways to combat “Isolated Writer Syndrome.” You don’t need to live near a critique partner or even close. You can research and communicate with agents and experts from the publishing world no matter where you live. You can even take online workshops and the technology is making it easier for writers to “feel” the classroom spirit and get the full experience without actually attending a physical class.
I encourage you to get out there and explore your options. Don’t give in to Isolated Writer Syndrome. It can be a depressing place to be. Of course I realize getting out there and finding ways to connect is harder than it sounds. I haven’t always followed my own advice on this. When I’ve been juggling my family’s schedule, trying to get dinner going, or teaching dance (my real paying job) I count myself lucky to reach my daily word count. However, I am attending WANA Con and can’t wait to get that boost of writer’s energy that it always gives me.
I hope you’ll consider signing up for WANA Con or find someway online to take away the feeling of isolation. What do you do to combat your Isolated Writer Syndrome?