I have worked as a writer for ten years now and for six of those also as an academic. Both of those occupations can lead to isolation. Ironically, there is also a need in both to network and make one’s presence felt so complete isolation is not an option. .
Once I had instilled some self-discipline into myself, I actually found I enjoyed being absorbed in my writing. The blank page never disturbed me and I learnt to write myself out of writer’s block. I found the days I was most dissatisfied with my work I produced the best writing. There was never any need to fear. A problem, though, was that a sort of cabin fever set it. I missed the school staffroom and I missed people. I found any excuse to go out and even visiting the accountant to talk through my tax return felt like a treat.
In addition networking opportunities didn’t come cheap and they always took up valuable writing time.
Gradually, though, I took on email and the inbox became a source of delight. It brought opportunities and contact with other writers. I joined some forums: notably Wordpool and SCBWI, later NibWeb and one or two others and I can quite honestly say that most of my writing success has come through connections I’ve found through these forums.
These days, the in-box brings in quite a bit of junk – despite two good filters -, quite a lot of stuff I elect not to read but allow to keep coming because some of it is useful, and one or two painful ones – like editorial comment I don’t agree with, a less than favourable review or even a bill. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of delights.
And then there’s the rest. I love Twitter and I tolerate Facebook. I find the latter clunky to use and it easily becomes a time--waster. I tend to be a passive user of it. I respond to what it sends me, though I do force myself to advertise my events and my books on it. Twitter is on all the time and I reward myself at the end of each task by going and having a peek.
I’m also an avid blogger and maintain six different blogs and regularly contribute to Triond. I usually start my writing day by writing something for one of the blogs, though I don’t force it if I don’t have anything to say.
The point is, even though I work in one of two little rooms, shut off form everyone, I feel connected to the world. Most of the people I follow on Twitter and who follow me are connected with the writing world, but there are a few others – for instance, I follow Jodrell Bank. Well, I do write science fiction.
Natalie Goldberg once pointed out that writers like working in cafés because the part of the brain that needs to feel connected with the world is satisfied because in a café you’re surrounded by the world. I feel a little like that knowing that I’m logged into Twitter. I don’t have to look at it all the time, but I know that the water-cooler is just a click away.
And of course, it’s all free networking.