Writer Recluse: Good, Bad or Ugly?

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Recently, I was told that the population of Brown Recluse spiders is growing. This isn’t good news – especially if you fear detest the eight-legged arachnids like I do. In my world, hardly a dark and dank den for spiders, I’m more concerned about becoming a reclusive writer.

In fact, my tendency to immerse myself in the worlds I create in my stories convinced me to give up on pursuing my writing dream the last time I tried it. My kids were in grade school and I needed to be there for them. Not half there while most of my brain was weaving plots and analyzing people all around us for possibly starring roles.

Coupled with the string of rejections the manuscript I was marketing collected, this absence from reality sounded like a warning bell. It wasn’t the right time for me to be self-centered and follow my own path. Is it ever the right time to be selfish?

The Good about Writing Hermitage

  • Uninterrupted time to let the words flow onto the page. Most people who write on the side don’t have this luxury. They must write anywhere and grab spare moments to jot notes and scenes.
  • An abundance of words. Left alone, I can produce in excess of 1000 words per hour in my writing cave. If I actually wrote for eight hours per day, that’s a short story for every day of the week. Or an 80,000 word novel in just two five-day work weeks. Nothing to scoff at, for sure.

The Bad Side

  • Leaving out family. This is the one that kept me away from my writing pursuits in 2002. I
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    couldn’t compartmentalize my writer’s brain with my mother’s mind. If you have kids and a spouse, this is unfair to them.

  • Abandoning friendships. Face it, friends need to spend time together if they expect to stay friends. Sure, I have friends who I rarely see and seem to remain constant when I do see them. They live in other states. The friends who live down the street? They expect me to answer their calls, hang out with them and be available when they need to talk.
  • Forgetting what living feels like. No one wants to read a stale tale that drains energy rather than invigorating it. When we don’t experience life, we can’t bring realism to our stories. Yes, we write what we know. Thus we need to have experiences to keep our writing fresh.
  • Losing perspective about the writing life. As much as I want writing to be about writing, it has to encompass more than that if it is going to become a career. Writers are expected to have an author platform, engage with fans on social media and understand what sort of comparable titles exist in the marketplace. Thanks to technology, much of that can be done in the isolation of the writing cave, but a new writer has to get into the public eye if they want to succeed.

Ugly Truth

Avoiding reality doesn’t help. In truth, this is what I’m doing when I choose to dwell in my make-believe worlds rather than interacting with the population of my real-life community.

Stories are nice but they aren’t real. I hate to admit this fact. When I’m in the clutches of writing and rewriting a novel, the people and places in the book become more real to me than my family and home. This might be okay for a few days, but why should I expect actual living breathing people to hang around waiting for me to emerge from my self-induced Narnia? I need to be able to shut the wardrobe office door, and let the pretend people wait.

In short, a writer recluse can be as deadly as the Brown Recluse spider. Deadly to relationships that matter. In the end, relationships are all that really matter. Who wants to celebrate their writerly successes all alone? Not me.

What are other good, bad and ugly truths you’ve discovered about the tendency of writers to withdraw from reality? Share your advice on avoiding this pitfall and learning to compartmentalize. I obviously need to hear it.

4 thoughts on “Writer Recluse: Good, Bad or Ugly?

  1. This is a tough one. I know “good” writers write even when they aren’t feeling inspired. If that’s true, then it should be simple: just schedule your writing time so it doesn’t conflict with family/friend time.

    But that’s not how I write, at least not all the time. I’m a binge writer, especially in November, if you know what I mean. That’s easier because I just let everyone know November is off-limits for most social activities, and most of my family/friends can handle that because it’s a short-ish period of time.

    But you know, I don’t want us to be too hard on ourselves. I think anyone who’s passionate about what they do/their profession has difficulty entering back into reality and disengaging from the world that fuels that passion. I think writers appear to be worse than 9-to-5’ers because writers don’t typically work a set schedule.

    I know I sound like a teenager: “Everybody’s doing it, mom!” But my point is I think this is a problem with most people who are passionate about what they do, including hobbies. The saving grace for writers is what we do not only provides pleasure and a sense of purpose, but it also has the capacity to pay some bills. So there’s that. 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kelly. You always add fantastic layers to whatever I’m yammering about that day.
      In truth, my friendship issues began when I was finishing my college degree while working full-time. Now, I feel like I have less to contribute to conversations because no one wants to hear about my make-believe world problems. It’s something I’ll get past, I’m sure. I appreciate the writer friends I do have

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