As writers, we spend a lot of time alone. It’s a necessary evil. I’ve made my peace with that, and I’ve come to cherish that alone time. Those hours when it’s just me and my keyboard or notebook, or even just me and my thoughts. Because face it, it’s not all about the writing. Some of it is the planning and the plotting and the mental gymnastics we go through to figure out how to get the hero from point A to point Z. Some of it is rethinking a path we’ve set our characters on that isn’t working or just the sheer joy of building the world our protag will inhabit.
I’ve noticed as I get deeper into a story, though, I have a harder time breaking free. I get into that sweet spot writers call “the zone,” and then the solitude isn’t evil any longer. When life calls me out of the dark room of my mind and into the bright light of reality, I get a little rebellious. I don’t want to leave. Why can’t someone else take care of paying the bills or buying the groceries? Surely I can put off the dentist appointment I’ve already rescheduled three times, and pizza for supper one more night won’t hurt anyone. The zone is so hard to get into sometimes that being jerked away from it can be physically painful.
But those forays into real life are as necessary as solitude is for us. They are what keep us grounded and able to endure prolonged closeness with the stories we write. For those times when we breathe the lives of our characters like air, when we become so intensely involved in what they are doing, thinking, feeling that we can’t dissociate ourselves from them. That is when the touchstones of our everyday existence bolster us as we emerge, blinking and emotionally drained, from the caves of our imaginations. I try not to resent that time away from doing what I love by constantly reminding myself that I’m filling up my reserves so I can dive back into the wonderland I’ve created.
Once in a while, that even works.