The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

After how many days of writing in isolation do you stop showering?

After how many days of writing in isolation do you stop showering?

Isolation fatigue. As content writers for hire, we’ve all been there. One day we’re happy as a lark, dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s on a sweet little piece about eco-friendly travel tips or, say, the evolution of the motorcycle jacket, the time at our desk having turned elastic, a Mobius Strip of liminal space in which the hours pass in seconds and the creative flow thunders like an Icelandic geyser; then, without warning, two days and 7,000 words later, the walls of our office begin to close in and our 2,700 square-foot suburban spread (the average size, in 2009, according to the National Association of Home Builders -ha, right!) begins to feel like a Japanese capsule hotel, as the monkish quiet of our solitary craft turns into a deafening roar for human contact. So what can a writer do to combat isolation fatigue and professionally imposed exile?

1. When the postman finally rings to drop off all those books you ordered from Amazon, kindly ask him if he’ll ring twice like he did in the 1946 movie with Lana Turner and again in the 1981 remake with Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. If he obliges, invite him in for tea and crumpets to discuss which film is a better adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic noir novel.

2. Wanna do lunch. Yeah, you do. Even if it’s with some long lost high school acquaintance who recently friended you, but who you can barely recall. Even if it’s grilled cheese and tomato soup at a greasy spoon, you know the line cook is going to make that sandwich with gruyere and not the plastic and colorfully fantastic slices of Velveeta you’ve got hoarded in the fridge. Better yet, why not make Dorothy Parker proud and form your own Algonquin Round Table…even if it’s at Panera Bread?

3. The next time you call up the bank to inquire if you overdrew your account by finally paying the cable bill, ask the representative how the weather is (beautiful here, chief), if he caught the big game last time (Sox lost, again. Bullpen is a mess), what’s on the agenda for the upcoming weekend (another article on tips to prevent identity theft). For all intents and purposes, expect to be put on hold. Cue Muzak…

4. Imaginary friends or multiple personalities should not be deemed childish nor a psychiatric cause for lithium.

5. Writing forums are a great place to rant and rave, to riff and monologue, to get all spleeny and complain about the injustice of the profession. Bad clients. Poor wages. Comma Nazis. Forums are a new millennium version of Freud’s talking cure. However, here’s the problem:

A) Something is always lost in translation, and Oedipa M. ends up insulting Pierce I. (To quell further conflict and misunderstanding, these names are not real and have been borrowed from The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon.)

B) Too many writers use the a forum like it’s a suicide hotline.

C) With so many trolls, one is bound to become a troll hunter.

Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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