Writing is a solitary activity. Or is it? A few months ago I joined a writers’ group at work. It’s mainly aimed at academic writing which isn’t really my cup of tea–I prefer mine iced and in a tall glass–but I’m happy to offer my support and experience and if needed for research I’ll subject myself to being a subject, but that’s another story.
It got me thinking about the process of writing, how it’s a mistake to think it’s a solitary process. Coleridge blames a “person from Porlock” for interrupting his composition of Kubla Khan but maybe they made him shake off his rose-colored glasses at just the right time. Writing a first draft, or even a third or a twentieth, may be done alone, but unless you’re writing exclusively for yourself you’re going to share it with others eventually. I do most of my writing alone but there are a couple of local coffee shops where I like to go and work occasionally, especially when they’re crowded. There’s something about being around people, even if they don’t know what I’m doing and aren’t interested, that fires me up. I take breaks to chat with people, to thank the barista for playing one of my favorite Kinks albums–twice. In spite of my focus being so scattered I feel like what I write usually comes out better. It takes surprising turns from the interruptions. I need the cacophony as much as I need the caffeine. And I think I get a kind of contact high from being in those places, an assurance that ideas will flow because they always have before.
What’s your writing process? Do you always work alone? Do you have a special space where things just happen?