The Invisible Writer

Great fiction writers create new worlds.  Going to another world requires a cultural assimilation program, at the very least. To live in another world, even temporarily, requires isolation from the here and the now.

Having a personal creative space is a dream come true for most writers. On days when everyone else is attending a baseball game or what have you, the solitude of being an author sets in. It sometimes entails turning down a few invitations, because creating a new world takes focus, time and energy.

Writers’ needs and preferences run the gamut. Conrad Aiken wrote in his dining room. D.H. Lawrence liked to write outdoors, under the trees. Some authors like to write in hotel rooms, as Toni Morrison did when her children were young. A hotel affords privacy and the opportunity to limit interruptions for days at a time.

Some writers don’t seem to need privacy. They can retreat into the recesses of their own minds and vanish in plain sight. A legendary Parisian café, Les Deux Magots, has hosted great writers such as Jean-Paul Satre and Albert Camus. They generated content right in the restaurant.  French author Nathalie Sarraute once said that a café “is a neutral place, and no one disturbs me – there is no telephone.” A café allows a writer to feel less isolated. They can be alone while in a crowd, blending into the background. They are physically present, but their minds are busily creating all the while.

Writers also may tell you that they can’t disappear into their writing without the use of props. Only a specific pen, type of music and particular shirt will do. Therefore, the idea of a writing place is psychological in nature. That equates to whatever the writer needs to feel comfortable.  In his 1951 essay “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena,” British psychologist D. W. Winnicott wrote, “It is in the space between inner and outer worlds, which is also the space between people—the transitional space—that intimate relationships and creativity occur.” With that in mind, perhaps the best answer about finding a writing haven is from a quote by Ernest Hemingway: “The best place to write is in your head.”

Where do you go when you disappear? Do you have a writing haven or can you write in plain sight?

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21 thoughts on “The Invisible Writer

  1. I write at my computer in the living room. Usually I work all day as a cartographer, then I play with my daughters for a few hours, then write 9-12 every night. I average about 100 lines of blank verse each evening in my epic poem about scientists. On weekends I wrote whenever I can all day long, and play with my kids in between writing times.

  2. I love this post; you are making me feel so normal! I’ve done many a hotel rooms, but my kids are now old enough to tell me how much they think I’m abandoning them, but still too young to SHHHHH!!!! when I’m trying to write. My office at home is supposed to be off-limits to everyone but me, but considering I have to do some fancy footwork not to step on the eight thousand Legos spread on the floor, I’d say the prohibition is an epic fail. It gets done. Somehow. That’s all I know. 🙂

  3. If my work is just brewing, I might go to an index card or notebook to jot down some thoughts. When it’s time to write, though, I grab my laptop and go somewhere far enough from my kids to offer some peace, but close enough to monitor them as needed. I think I get my best writing done on my bed after the kids are asleep, or before they wake up, laptop splayed across my thighs and back aching from the lack of support.

  4. I wish I could disappear in plain sight. I need quiet and a decent length of quiet, alone time to immerse myself into my story world. Strangely enough I can blog, or twitter just fine anywhere…

    • That makes sense, it takes major focus to write fiction. Tweeting and blogging sort of allows for multitasking. I like to block off several hour intervals in which to focus on writing, with as much solitude as possible.

  5. Loving these responses! It seems to be something we all are conscious of on a regular basis. Incorporating time to disappear takes a lot of organizational skill, so all the other balls in the air don’t get dropped in the interim.

  6. Definitely Both/And! When I am out at fishcamp in the summers (as I am now) I have a writing studio far from everyone else (which seems strange since I’m already on a remote island in Alaska, population 7.) But when in the huge city of Kodiak, population 15,000, I often go to coffeeshops to ease the isolation of writing, to be around people, without having to actually engage with them. Thanks for the post!!

  7. I never get more attention from my family than when I am trying to write. Everyone needs me. Gee, I feel so valuable. (Read the sarcasm here.) The last time I was trying to get something in for a deadline, they reminded me of a parade, marching in and out of my room. My husband is just like one of the kids when it comes to this. Late night is usually my best bet, but I’m wiped out in the morning.

    I have a studio that we just had finished on our property. I see that, being my new place to write. The whole family will have to take a much longer walk to find me then. The exercise will be good for them!

  8. I do most of my typing in my kitchen. It’s like the center of my universe. However, the most creative planning and writing probably occurs late at night, in bed, when others are asleep and all I have is a spiralbound notebook and a mechanical pencil. I’m not interrupted by constant questions or interesting information needing to be imparted to me from children or husband. So that is when I can stay in my little story world and not fear the sucking out of the setting like a forceful time-space continuim. Oh, how I hate that :o).

  9. Setting boundaries can make a big difference, as long as the people around you are respectful of them. Does anyone ever feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, when he tells his wife to refrain from distracting him and breaking his concentration? I’ve acted that out for my husband a couple of times when warranted. It’s a ‘joke’ but he gets the concept.

  10. I can write in plain sight, but I sure prefer my cave with no one else around and my calendar completely cleared. I hate to pull the Jack Nicholson, as mentioned above; but I sometimes feel like an ogre, if someone’s schedule changes, bringing them home before expected. I want to greet my husband with a smile and a hug, not a “What are you doing home so early?”

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