Staying social when writing is solitary

Ducks in a Row

Writing itself is solitary. Even if we’re working in an office and surrounded by people, we typically tuck ourselves away, apply our headphones and scurry into our documents with the enthusiasm of a meerkat digging a new downstairs.

Let the others collaborate; I have word magic to conjure.

It’s not that we dislike people (generally speaking). It’s that writing happens in our head. But that creates a problem.

Writing is solitary, but humans are social (even introverted ones like me; don’t tell). We fill our creative wells in countless ways, but one of those needs to be socializing despite the inherently solitary nature of our work.

Socializing keeps us:

  • empathetic
  • in touch with other perspectives
  • connected with other ideas
  • up-to-date with trends and techniques

It’s important, but it’s counter to what we do. So, what do we do?

Step away from the keyboard

It’s easy to hop on Twitter or Facebook, or shoot an email or instant message. For many (and for many reasons), it’s the only way of socializing.

Let me be clear: I don’t judge anyone whose primary contact with the outside world is social media. We all tick in different ways, to different degrees and for different reasons.

This is for writers who are fully capable of engaging with people in person but spend time on social media because it’s easy.

People need to see and be seen. Depending on your comfort level, you may thrive on daily human interaction or you may prefer to have one cup of coffee with one person within any given week.

What helps me

Each week, I choose one day to have lunch or coffee with a friend or coworker. I’m highly introverted, and this level of genuine, authentic face time works for me. I also find it less draining because I plan ahead.

Try that new thing

Yeah, you hear this a lot. “Try something new, you’ll meet new people, make new friends, blah blah blah…” The moment I hear this, I tune out because clearly they don’t ‘get’ me.

Pry me out of my shell, willya? We’ll just see about that.

Here’s what they don’t tell you—choose the right new thing. Whether the activity itself is social or solitary is irrelevant.

When you try something new, even by yourself, chances are you’ll ask for help at some point.

Boom—socializing without realizing it because it doesn’t fit the preconceived notion of what socializing is. So many people think socializing is building new friendships, networking, basically anything with a clear and direct purpose. Making every connection count and last in perpetuity.

I can tell you for a fact that’s just one way to do it. I love (LOVE!) trying something new by myself and talking to people by chance along the way. No pressure beyond that, and no pressure to make it last beyond that encounter.

What works for me

Reading a book at a new restaurant because inevitably the server asks me about it and now I’m book-swap buddies with three servers in my immediate area.

Visiting a museum, bookstore, park, tourist trap, grocery store, workshop, library—you name it. I go with the intention of enjoying some quality alone time. But I also meet new people because I get lost or there’s something interesting to gawk at that you just can’t help but exchange raised eyebrows with someone. It’s great.

Go bookclubbing

Book clubs are all the rage. Have been for years. I’ve refused to join one because I don’t like being told what to read and I don’t want to share my opinions with other people in the book club because reading is personal for me. I also don’t like the pressure of having to finish a book to make other people happy.

Thanks, I’ve already graduated college. Reading on my time, woohoo!

What works for me

There’s recently been a new spin on book clubs. It’s called the Silent Book Club.

  • Pick what you want to read.
  • Gather with other people who’ve done the same.
  • Drink wine or coffee or whatever beverage suits you.
  • Shut up and read.

I’m not an official member of the Silent Book Club, but I have started one at work.

Speed socializing

Last year, I went through a period of unemployment/freelancing/yoga-pants-are-a-girls-best-friend. During those periods, it’s even easier to dig a deeper meerkat basement and hide there.

You have to be online looking for work. You have to be at your desk working on your freelance work. You’re emotionally vulnerable and you hate answering questions like “So, where you do work?” and “So, how’s the job hunt going?”

When I find a new job, you’ll hear by shouts of joy from space. Pass me a muffin.

What worked for me

I chose one day per week, usually Friday, and packed it full of coffee appointments and face-to-face meetings. Whatever was going on the rest of the week, Friday was my get-out-and-talk-to-as-many-people-as-possible day.

Fridays worked best because by then, I was tired of being at the computer and so were the people I was meeting.

Now, over to you. What are some of your favorite techniques of staying social? Share in the comments.

Yours, Ducky





2 thoughts on “Staying social when writing is solitary”

  1. Wow, I would LOVE Silent Book Club! I’m surrounded by people all day, in a good way, but it would be nice to just share space with people and have some quiet time:-)

    1. Exactly! All you have to do is show up with a book of your own choosing and read quietly to yourself. But because you’re still surrounded by people, it counts as peopling.

      All the reading, none of the talking. Win.

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