There are few experiences I find worse than writing around other people.
When I’m around people, I want to talk. It could be about writing, How to Get Away with Murder, cake…I’m not picky. But if people are around me, I like my attention to be on them, not the fictional ones living inside my head.
One of my friends, however, wrote 10,000 words in a weekend while surrounded by people. It was the most productive she’d been in ages.
Millions of people around the world take part in NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo every year, too.
There’s a lot to be said about the benefits of being a social writer. But there are benefits to being a solitary writer too.
Let’s take a look at the differences and how you can make the most of them so that you can write more and improve your craft.
Signs you’re a social writer
- Other people motivate you
- Busy/noisy places don’t irritate you
- Seeing other people succeed makes you want to
- You don’t find other people distracting
- You could focus in a noisy atmosphere with other people milling around
- You get more done when you’re out of the house
If three or more of these sound like you, you could be a social writer.
How to make the most of being a social writer
Find a local writing group
These could be writing communities, where you get to talk writing but don’t get feedback, or a critique groups, where you give and receive feedback. Both are great for holding you accountable and getting to know like-minded people.
If you’re new to writing, a community may be better for you. They require less commitment, meaning you have more time to spend on your own writing. You also don’t need to worry about if you’re giving feedback on the wrong level or lack the confidence/skills to receive the feedback you’re given.
Not to mention finding the right critique group can be tricky. When you find the right one, it’s amazing.
But if they’re the kind that say, ‘this is great, I love it,’ and offer no constructive feedback, run.
Run like a cheetah going after its prey with your prey as your future writing career. Sticking with them will keep you away from it.
There is NOTHING helpful about anyone telling you that your writing is amazing all of the time. It’s just ego-stroking. It means that when someone does finally criticise your work (and they will), you won’t be able to handle it.
Of course, you don’t know what a critique group is like until you join. It helps to know the people that are in it—if you know what they’re like in life, it’s easier to be able to tell what kinds of feedback they’ll give.
Otherwise, there’s no harm in visiting one or two meetups. If you decide after that it isn’t for you, don’t be afraid to say so. There’s really no point in sticking around if their working style is damaging your writing or your confidence.
What works for one person won’t work for someone else. If they get offended by you leaving, you definitely made the right decision.
Talk to people online
Virtual writing groups can be just as useful as in-person ones for keeping you motivated. They’re also really useful when it comes to getting help with something, whether that’s a topic you’re writing about or book marketing.
Online writing communities are great for accountability, too. Accountability buddies keep you focused and give you someone to bounce ideas off when you’re stuck.
Twitter is a really good place to network with other writers. Check out hashtags #amwriting and #writingcommunity to find writers. It’s worth adding the caveat that sometimes there can be drama in these communities, but it’s pretty easy to steer clear of it.
You can also check out The Writing Society, a new writing community coming soon by yours truly 😉
Signs you’re a solitary writer
- When you’re around people, you just want to talk
- You need your alone time
- You hate loud noises
- You like to be in control of your environment when you’re writing/working
- You write with headphones on
- Open-plan offices are the bane of your life
- You get more done when you’re at home
If three or more of these sound like you, you could be a solitary writer.
How to make the most of being a solitary writer
Get some decent sound equipment
Don’t buy cheap headphones and expect them to drown out the rest of the world. They just won’t.
Buy some decent headphones that actually can drown out the world. You’ll never want to listen to music on crappy sound equipment again.
I spent years listening to music on cheap sound equipment, not seeing the point in buying the expensive stuff. Then my boyfriend let me borrow his expensive headphones and the difference between listening to one of my favourite songs on his device and not mine was insane. It completely blocked out the outside world; I could hear bass in the song I didn’t even know was there, and notice things I’d never been able to hear before. It turned music from a sound into an experience.
A couple of favourites in our household (affiliate links):
Find a place to write—even if it’s just a corner of a room
Find somewhere that you can associate with writing. For me, it’s our sofa. When it comes to editing, it’s my upstairs desk. Use that place solely for writing. If that place is at home, make it clear to anyone you live with that it’s your writing space. Keep it sacred.
If it’s a coffee shop or local park, save that place for where you get your writing done. Spend time with friends and family somewhere else. You’ll find it much easier to switch into writing mode if you do this.
Don’t let others interrupt you. Ever.
If you don’t respect your writing time, no one else will.
Have some sort of signal to the people you live with that this is your Writing Time and you are not to be disturbed.
My personal favourite is a sign on the door that even small children know never to ignore. Instead, they’ll wait patiently outside until their mother’s Writing Time is over. (True story but not mine.)
There’s no clear cut answer to this. You may like writing in both scenarios. It may depend on your current mental state.
For me, I like to be free from distractions. And to me, people—no matter how much I love them—are distractions.
However, there are benefits to being around people. While I don’t write around them, sometimes the best way to get around a mental block is to speak to other writers.
One conversation can be the difference between hitting your head against a brick wall for months and hitting your target word count for the day.
Over to You
What about you? Are you a social writer, a solitary writer, or a combination of the two?