Being a writer can be a fulfilling experience. Whether you explore fictional realms or seek to find and provide insights into the real world, you have the ability to creatively express your own curiosity with your readers. However, the deeply cerebral nature of writing often means that it tends to be a solitary pursuit. Indeed, there is a fallacy that this solitude, and the sense of loneliness that often comes with it, is an essential element of the craft.
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Yet, maintaining a solo existence under the impression that it can hone your abilities or brings you closer to society’s expectations of a “real writer” has negative consequences. Not only that, but you also miss out on many of the benefits socialization can bring to your art form. It’s not always easy — after all, your art form involves just you, your thoughts, and your writing tools — but it is worth making the effort to embrace.
Take a moment to explore why staying social can have a positive impact on writing life, along with some ways you can practically implement it into your practice.
A lot of writers feel more comfortable being on their own. However, when you isolate yourself for long periods of time, this is not always ideal for your mental wellness. That’s not to say you should force yourself to head out to large gatherings — this can be anxiety-inducing in itself. Even spending time reading in a group or chatting with one friend makes a difference. Consider what level of socialization you enjoy engaging in, and seek opportunities to do so regularly.
The simple fact of the matter is that making efforts to spend time with other people is a method of keeping your mental health in good shape. A recent study found that people who felt they were thriving in life saw their friends at least once a week, while those who were considered to be at risk rarely spent face-to-face time with companions. It is difficult to maintain long-term and productive writing habits when you have to contend with the trappings of poor mental health, so if nothing else it is in the best interest of your craft to take good care of it.
Indeed, if you are already living with mental illness or are in addiction recovery, socializing must play a role in your management, too. Increased isolation — particularly in the way many writers have experienced during COVID-19 — can be instrumental in disrupting the structures you rely upon, keep you distant from those who provide support, and even make it easier to hide problematic issues. Making efforts to step outside for some exercise with a friend, attend online meetings, and just talking to family helps to keep you connected to your wellness and accountable for your recovery. Socialization helps you remain a functioning writer and a healthy human.
While the activity of writing may well be mostly solitary, that’s not to say there aren’t others who can contribute. Particularly if you treat your writing as a career rather than a hobby, other people are in fact instrumental to your ability to be successful. As such, you need to keep making concerted efforts to engage.
Writing groups are a good method to combine your craft with your social needs. On one hand, this is a forum to both give and receive feedback, which is vital to maintaining a critical perspective on your abilities. After all, your work is intended to be read by others, and a writers’ group with other creatives you trust can be a safe, supportive place to help you grow. It can also be a way to help you work through technical issues that you have with projects. Group brainstorming sessions, particularly using techniques such as mind-mapping and starbursting, can help members of your group to collaborate in helping to find solutions to issues you’re having. When led with structure and positive encouragement, these are opportunities for each member to mutually benefit from everyone’s talent, experience, and diverse perspectives.
Aside from writers’ groups, conventions are good social opportunities to network with publishers, editors, and other writers. While networking can feel like something of a dirty word in creative circles, when most effective, this isn’t approached as a cold method to sell your book or yourself. Rather, it’s about building genuine relationships with people in an industry that can often be difficult, not just getting published, but when you receive bad reviews or periods of creative block. Seeking these friendships with others in the field means that you can stay on top of changes and opportunities in the field, while also supporting one another when things get difficult.
Remaining isolated as a writer is not just unhealthy or stilting to your career — it can be detrimental to your craft. Unless you write exclusively about non-human subjects and those also have no human relationship to them, you need to have a grasp of human perspectives. Your own perspective and those you read in other books or on TV aren’t sufficient, here, either. In order to write about people, you need to learn from them. This means you have to spend time with them.
In this way, socializing can be one of your most important creative resources. The more you spend time with other people, the greater opportunities you have to understand the diverse elements that impact their lives, influence their decision-making, and direct the course of their existence. Particularly if you engage in fiction writing, you have a better chance of creating well-rounded, believable characters if you continue to build relationships with the varied range of fascinating and normal people this life has to offer.
No, you can’t just achieve this through some distant people watching, either. Writing, at its very best, provides the reader with an empathetic experience. If you’re not socializing for your mental health or to build meaningful relationships, you should be doing so to maintain your emotional connection to your fellow humans. The closer you engage with the people of the world, with their struggles and joys, the richer and more affecting your writing will be.
Being a writer certainly has elements of solitude built into it. However, taking time to socialize can help you stay mentally healthy and give a boost to your career. Above all else, it helps you stay connected to your fellow humans, which in turn informs and enhances your writing.