The Isolating Writer

When I have a ton of work to do—like, for example, right now with freelance copyediting deadlines, teaching responsibilities for my writing class (which I think is going really well! I love my students), and novel revisions and a nice, solid book deadline I have noted in beautiful panic red in my calendar, among other things, because there are always other things—I do tend to regress and do this thing that helps me focus and get calm and breathe: I isolate.

Here I am writing in bed in my writing sweater, which I love wearing during isolation. Photo by Laura Amador, taken at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

It’s comforting to be in a cocoon of my own making, where my mind can find some quiet, and where my panic can slither away and leave me alone so I can get shit done. It’s comforting to avoid all social interactions and let my roots grow out because who cares what I look like. It’s comforting to sit on the floor of my dark apartment eating a tub of blueberries and thinking about the climax of my novel until the “aha!” moment comes. But this kind of behavior doesn’t help me keep friends. Truly, I don’t know if anyone understands when I do this. Sometimes it’s all I can do, you know?

The good thing about isolating in the face of deadlines is I feel like my mind gets sharper, which is a necessary thing for solving plot issues in a novel, and also for getting through freelance jobs. I’m just a usual introvert who needs some Alone Time, as we call it in my house, to recharge. And sometimes this Alone Time spreads out over weeks.

I hope no one takes it personally.

How do I explain this to people so they understand? Fellow introverts, let me know what helps you and how you keep your friends and families intact during and after times you need that comforting, and necessary, bout of isolation to keep your head on straight.

p.s. Change of subject. Do you want to win a signed paperback of Imaginary Girls? The paperback comes out next month and you’ll have chances to win a signed one here on this blog, but in the meantime here’s the first giveaway as a part of Laura Pauling’s Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon (oh, how I wanted to add a serial comma!). I wrote about mysterious girls from books who catch my imagination… Comment and tell me the “mysterious girl” characters you love, and you could win a beautiful paperback of my book.

Enter the giveaway right here.

The new cover look is gorgeous. This picture doesn’t even show how glossy and delicious this paperback is in person. Wanna see?

(Pre-order links can be found on my website!)

Now back to isolating…

12 responses to “The Isolating Writer”

  1. My closest girlfriends know I’m like this too. One of my good friends is very social, and I’m not, and we’re both just open about it. When she throws parties, she knows I can only last for about an hour and she’s not offended because we’ve talked about it. So I guess we both just appreciate our differences!


  2. I know exactly what you mean! I isolate whenever I have a lot to do and my friends never understand it. They just accept it and offer mac and cheese when I come out of my cave.


  3. I’m not even an introvert by nature, and I do this too. I wish I had a solution for you, but my friends never get it either. Since I don’t get paid to write (yet), they don’t understand why I have to treat it like a job and can’t hang out all the time. One friend does tend to take it personally…kinda sucks. The good news is that it really helps to connect with other writers. They’re the ONLY one’s who get it. 🙂


  4. I’m actually very bad myself at disconnecting from my friends and family when I write. My roommate will come in periodically to make sure I’m still alive, lol! Sometimes I just have to give myself time restraints to hang out with them. I tell myself I will work for this many hours and then I will go out for this amount of time that way my friends don’t feel like I’m neglecting them.


  5. I put up my hands and say “I’m burrowing! I have to go burrow!” and then everyone leaves me alone. This usually involves going into my bedroom and putting everything I need to get done on my bed and not leaving until everything is in nice little “complete” piles. Everyone understands what burrowing means and knows that it’s probably for their own good–I’ll reemerge a little less crazy and panicky–if they just let me be and don’t poke their head in the door. Sometimes, I’ll invite people to burrow with me. But they only get an invite if they can assure me that they’ll be silent, wear sweat clothes, and be as seriously dedicated to getting a huge pile of stuff done as I am.


  6. Luckily my husband values his alone time, too, so we try to give that to each other. The two eighteen month olds don’t quite grasp introversion yet, unfortunately. 😀


  7. I absolutely know what you mean. But it goes farther for me. I’m not just an isolator, I’m a procrastinator. Without a deadline, I flounder. I wrote my master’s thesis in about three days, after figuring out what I was going to write about for most of two years. I wish I had an editor telling me they needed something by the end of the day. I’d be much more productive.

    Congratulations on your success!


  8. Yes, this! I definitely withdraw into semi-hibernation at times, particularly during the winter. I think hannahkarena is right: burrowing seems the right term. I don’t know how to explain it, either, but I often end up apologising for being out of touch. It’s good to know there are other polar bears out there, too! xx


  9. My acknowledgments page in VENOM thanks my family for “not disowning me for going AWOL from the family for weeks at a time” so I definitely know where you’re coming from. I have always been ‘the ambitious one’ so my mom and siblings get how busy I am. Luckily, I gravitate toward friends with multiple jobs and hobbies and extensive social lives, so they aren’t too demanding of my time. I have had no luck with dating, however. You’d think guys would be happy with a girl who doesn’t want them to call or text every day. Not the guys I meet 😉


  10. One character that to me seems mysterious is Jane Austen’s character Mary. Little is really depicted or given away about Mary at all. It’s like she’s a movie star acting like an extra. I’ve always wondered how her story turned out.


  11. I usually find that a simple facebook update that says, “I’m in my cave. I’ll come out only for food and bathroom breaks.
    I forgot who said it but I remember reading somewhere the quotation, “A writer is someone who tries to communicate with a mass of people by sitting alone and typing.”
    Tell those close to you it’s crunch time? And that a plate of brownies could help get you through it.
    Do you teach in a classroom or do you teach via webinars and such? Just curious because I’ve heard of the growing webucation trend, but don’t know much about it.
    Also, I wish I knew about residencies back in college. Now,being married and with a little one, I don’t think I’ll get away to something like that till our child is old enough for summer camp.


  12. I am definitely a natural introvert, and luckily my friends and family have gotten to that point where they let me have ample alone time without bugging me to come out..

    Also, I love the new Imaginary Girls cover – I can’t decide which one I like better, the new or old one, because the old one was amazing, too!


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