The writer’s life is often a lonely life, with hours upon hours locked away with a notebook, a typewriter, a laptop, away from human contact, shunning friends and family alike, until that masterpiece is finally finished. A writer’s social life often consists of their characters— and whoever restocks their microwavable meals in the freezer, does the dishes, and brings the coffee.
I know that as a writer, I wouldn’t love more than to be able to flick a switch, and for all of the outside distractions to just melt away, leaving me alone so I can actually get some writing done. It would be nice to have some peace and quiet, without anyone asking for me to do anything, or any phone calls to return. It would be nice, right?
There is a problem in all of this, of course. It’s not that I’m a total cynic, but most things in life are a touch too good to be true. Being a hermit writer is one of these things.
Days, weeks, or even months of isolation can lead not only to a lot of writing getting done, but it can also lead to stilted dialogue and paper-cut-out characters who have personalities to rival a plain concrete wall. That is DEFINITELY a problem.
As a writer, I have discovered that not only do I have to understand the English language on a level beyond what most people would subject themselves to, but I also have to know people on the level of a psychologist, and society on the level of a sociologist, etc, etc.
Writing is not a lonely business.
Yes, there are long stints where I lock myself away with my computer, turn off my wireless card, crank the music and spew words on the page. But there are also times where I’ll wander around the mall or other places where people tend to gather, walk around, and people watch. I take note of their body language, the way they splice sentences together (not necessarily the topics and often bizarre stories, since I write fantasy and sci-fi, not contemporary literature), the way groups form, and everything else I can possibly take in.
This is a great exercise for any writer. As writers, we generally write about people, trying to capture something about the human experience, even if we are not writing about humans, per se (I reference elves and the like here, not dogs and cats and other furry animals). The more we as writers know how people interact with one another, the better we can—theoretically—make well rounded, realistic characters.
The same goes for society building. As a writer of fantasy, I create whole worlds to set my books in, and then create cultures on that world, building whole societies from the ground up. This is necessary for original work. However, if I knew nothing about societies and how they worked, how would my created culture show up on the page? It wouldn’t.
Over the years, I have read about various cultures, their mythologies, they structure of their religions, how it effects everyday life, and just about every other book I could get my hands on about societies in general. While I am not researching a specific society, I am learning about what makes a culture, about the structure, the key elements required, and it has greatly enriched my writing—and hopefully the experience of reading my work.
Once upon the time, I was a hermit writer, locking myself in an office, never going out because I could never possibly be done writing all the books I really want to. That has definitely changed, and because of it, my writing has changed as well. I don’t produce less material, either, since I go out into the world. Far from it. I am writing more, and writing truer, and for that I am thankful.
So get out there, writers! A little bit of time away from the desk can be a good thing (in increments), and who knows, maybe you'll find a bit of inspiration.
As far as I am concerned, the hermit writer exists, but the hermit AUTHOR is a paradox.
~Tiffany “Kysis” Tackett