Why Writing Must Remain Lonely

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Right now, all I can hear is the hum of the air conditioner and, through closed windows, the occasional scooter driving by on South Road. If I really strain my ears I can hear my dog, Roz, chewing on some rawhide in the living room. (At least, I hope it’s rawhide.)

As usual, there’s no one else around. My wife’s at work and we don’t have any children, so it’s just me.

I knew that becoming a freelance content and copywriter was going to be powerfully different than going to court and arguing cases every day. But I underestimated just how different — and how beneficial — the change would actually be.

Quiet. Peaceful. Solitary.

Modern freelance writing is an inherently reclusive pursuit. Even for those of us who seek out the company of other professionals in co-working spaces and shared offices, the solitary nature of freelancing and the quiet, focused energy required for writing ensure we spend much of our time in our own heads.

For some, this sounds like a nightmare. These folks thrive on the energy and noise generated by groups and they can’t imagine spending all day cooped up with their own thoughts.

But there’s a special kind of serenity to be had when you’re the only one in a quiet house or office and the only thing you hear is the insistent clicking of the keys on your keyboard.

You’re removed from the petty arguments of the office. You’re removed from the blaring horns of rush-hour traffic. And you’re removed from the need to give your energy to the people around you. You can focus on yourself, and yourself alone.

One is the loneliest number

While I don’t miss the incessant interruptions and demands that came with a busy day in bail court, I do miss the relationships that flourished in the close-knit environment of an overwhelmed prosecutions office. There was a real “soldiers sharing a foxhole” vibe where I used to work, and it made for some great friendships.

The lack of real, daily, professional relationships is probably the single biggest drawback to online freelance writing. Yes, many of us try to compensate for this deficiency with virtual — or even face-to-face — meetings with other freelancers, but I’ve found that these get-togethers sometimes feel forced. They have the same vibe as meeting a friend from your hometown 10 years after you moved away.

There’s a difference between sharing an office day-in and day-out with a teammate and meeting up for coffee with someone who’s job is roughly similar to yours. The former feels necessary and essential. The latter has a veneer of artificiality.

3 quick tips for…whatever

Everyone tells me these articles are supposed to be solutions-focused so here is where I would normally share the “5 easiest ways to crush loneliness” or some such nonsense. But I’ll spare you the made-up to-do list.

Truthfully, I don’t think there’s any getting around the loneliness of freelance writing. But that’s not a bad thing. In my view, the solitude goes hand-in-hand with the job, offering opportunities for self-reflection and thought that are essential to coming up with something at least a little bit interesting to say.

You should embrace the detached and meditative nature of the work because those are the characteristics of your day job that will help you succeed. And if things get too quiet, you can always fill the rest of your days with parties, soirees, and shindigs. Everyone loves a good shindig.

The end of each day

When each solitary day wraps up and my wife gets home from work, I feel energized. I feel like I’ve spent my time productively, marinating in peaceful silence and thought as I typed the day away.

I save the social part of myself for my wife, our friends, and the rest of my family. After office hours. And that’s nearly perfect for me.

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Steven Toews, JD, MBA

Steven Toews, JD, MBA

Former lawyer. Now a copy and content writer. Writing about achieving success as a freelancer. Find me on Twitter: @freelancemba