Writers can be solitary creatures. We frequently hole up in solo offices, and unless we’re living with a partner or roommates, some of us can go days without so much as making eye contact with another human being. There are some writers who are infinitely more social, who thrive on noise and chaos, but most of the novice and experienced writers I know find writing to be a somewhat lonely practice.
That’s why it’s important for us to get out every so often — not just away from the desk, but actually out of the office and even out of the house. Because unless your material focuses solely on secluded navel-gazing, one of the worst things you can do as a writer is to permanently hole up somewhere.
You can leave your desk and still keep writing…
In November 2009, I attended the <a href=”http://www.wemakethemedia.org/“>We Make the Media Conference in Portland, Oregon. In one of the break-out sessions — on community-sponsored journalism or hyper-local coverage, I really don’t remember — a few of us independent-types (read: freelance writers who aren’t on-staff anywhere, but who instead work on per-piece contract assignments) got to talking about how we were missing out on the benefits of an established newsroom. Since we were all solo writers working from isolated spaces scattered across the city, we didn’t have a physical, central work space for sharing leads, brainstorming ideas or simply motivating each other with our own projects and productivity.
We got together and formed the <a href=”http://oregonnewsincubator.org“>Oregon News Incubator</a> to support independent journalists through shared resources, training opportunities and shared workspace. We’re working toward securing a dedicated space where freelance journalists, writers and other content producers can come hang out and be productive, and in the meantime we’re hosting co-working gatherings in coffee shops around town.
Not everyone lives near ONI’s work parties or has access to an established co-working space, but that doesn’t mean that getting out of the house can’t still be constructive. Just heading out to your local coffee shop — with or without your laptop — can breathe fresh life into your writing project and into your person morale. Many libraries now offer free wi-fi access and sometimes even enclosed work spaces for people like us who want to get out around other human beings while still keeping our noses to the grindstone. … but don’t forget to close the computer and embrace adventure.
To keep your work — and your life — from getting stale, you can take chances on new experiences and destinations. (Yes, this still requires you to actually leave your office.) It could be as simple as trying a new route to get to the library, or as extreme as going skydiving for the first time.
If an opportunity presents itself to you — an invitation to play paintball, a friend who needs a travel companion for a tour of Cambodia, a class on underwater basket-weaving that catches your eye — why not give it a shot? If your first, knee-jerk reaction is to reject it, take a moment to consider why. Is this opportunity really too time-consuming, out of your way, or otherwise inconvenient, or does it simply require you to step outside your comfort zone?
You want to be smart about this, of course — if you’ve got asthma, a trip up Mt. Everest probably isn’t the best move. But I’ve found that it’s when I take chances like this — whether it’s solo travel to a country where I don’t speak the language, or trying street hockey when I can barely skate — some wonderful things happen. I meet new people, get all sorts of new story ideas, and have a lot more fun than I’d have sitting at home in front of the computer.
Jennifer Willis is an author, essayist, and journalist in Portland, Oregon. In her non-fiction work, she specializes in topics related to sustainability, spirituality/religion, history, and health. Her articles have appeared in The Oregonian, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, The Portland Tribune, The Writer, Ancestry Magazine, Aish.com, Skirt!, InterfaithFamily.com, Vegetarian Times, Spirituality & Health, and other print and online publications at home and across the globe.
In fiction, she focuses on urban fantasy and playful mayhem. Her new ebook, “Valhalla” is available at <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004XW34X6“>Amazon</a>, <a href=”http://bit.ly/eAKEza“>Barnes & Noble and http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11217521-valhalla“>Goodreads</a>.
Visit her online at <a href=”http://jennifer-willis.com“>jennifer-willis.com</a>.