All By Myself

 Word count: 240                                     Reading time: 1 min.

“Despite all [Edith Wharton’s] privileges, despite her strenuous socializing, she remained an isolate and a misfit, which is to say, a born writer.” wrote Jonathan Franzen in his article A Rooting Interest in a recent New Yorker. By that definition, I’m a born writer too. 

You know all those writers that you see tapping on laptops or scribbling in notebooks in the local coffee shop? I’m not one of them. I need isolation – deep, dark solitude – to work well. Last November I learned of organized write-in events by NaNoWriMo participants and asked the person convening meetings at Waves Coffee House what was involved. Her answer: a bunch of people fire up their laptops, consume coffee, write, and engage in intermittent word wars.

Write in public? I thought. Won’t that silence the angels and demons who whisper when it’s just them and me in the room?

Franz Kafka said, “Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” When I make this descent, it’s not a lonely place to go. It’s an essential tonic to the busy-ness and noise of life. Writing is a time to sit alone with my visions and see if the words I've scratched into my notebook will burst into life, like sea-monkeys, when transcribed to my novel.

Can you work with distractions, greeting family, friends, and passers-by? Or do you need isolation for your writing process?


Photo by: Ncousla

Quiet Please. Woman at Work.

Word count: 345                  Reading time: 2-3 mins

The noise is killing me! I’m not talking about auditory noise, I’m talking about psychological noise that can paralyze a writer. I’ve got books, magazines, and audio files on how to write. I’ve taken courses online and in the flesh. Whenever I sit down to the keyboard I can channel a dozen voices on how to proceed. All of them contradict each other.

A deafening maelstrom was already brewing when I went to a seminar held by The Writers’ Union of Canada called Secure Footing in a Changing Literary Landscape. Presenter Ross Laird said that the internet is the single biggest change in publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg Press. Writers need a platform he insisted. I answered his challenge; I reserved my own domain name.

Eventually I even launched this website which increased the level of noise around me. Then I had to find readers for it. Answer: Twitter. These two steps turned up the volume even louder.

Twitter, at any given second, has people offering topnotch advice and links to highly relevant blogs. It is such an irresistible force that I have to discipline myself to look at it no more than once a day. Otherwise the voices I want to hear – those of my characters – are drowned.

In the Writer’s Digest magazine, Writing for Kids & YA, Sherman Alexie offered this advice “Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.” There’s a voice I need to listen to! I’m going to stop this right now, right here. It’s time to get back to writing. Until the next time I hear the sirens call.

Can you hear through all the noise around you? What voices are you listening to?


With a special thank you to Jessica Klassen for the January 26th tweet that inspired this blog.

PS As if to prove my point, when I tried to post this blog 6 hours ago, the webhost's software kept locking me out. But what's half a day lost in the great time drain of the internet?


Photos by: (above) picstudio (left) drbimages