Being a writer and being a hermit – you can be one without the other . . .

. . . although it may be difficult.  I remember back in my teen angst years when I spent hours and hours . . . and hours alone in my room writing.  Now some of this was ridiculously horrible, angst infused poetry but some of it wasn’t.  Some of it was writing that still brings a smile to my face.  Deep and still profound reflections on life, delightful starts to stories, infused with hopeful, living, breathing characters and even my first novella.  Throughout this though, I recognized that while I loved the time spent at my clunky old computer or curled up in my bed with a pen or notebook I was also using writing as an escape from a life that I often  found less than appealing.  As I grew up, and grew out of my hermit type behaviour I found that a rich, involved life outside of the four walls of my room didn’t leave time for the kind of devotion I was used to giving to my words.  You see, there were often times that I would write for 7 or more hours at a time, sometimes even skipping meals, and if I had to stop before I was ready it felt like I had lost something that I wouldn’t be able to get back.

When I started university and quickly found that I actually needed to devote hours outside of class to maintain the stellar grades that came easily in high school I found I couldn’t devote hours to my writing, even if I wanted to. When I started developing an active social life with friends I could confide my deepest concerns, fears, and joys to, I realized I no longer needed to use words the way I once had.

I can’t remember when exactly, but at some point I went through a struggle where I held the belief that I couldn’t be both a successful novelist and have a social life . . . with difficulty I chose my friends.  Now, clearly this didn’t mean I stopped writing all together but for years I let go of the dream I’d held from early childhood that I would ever be a writer.  I’ve recently reclaimed that dream and I just realized that along with it, this summer I’ve also seemed to somewhat internalize the old belief that focusing on my writing meant I couldn’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) make time for any but the most important social interactions.

I’ve taken time away from home (and from writing) to spend with my family and I have not abandoned Skype dates with my significant other but beyond that I’ve hardly participated in more than three or four social activities the whole summer.  The reason being (although I’m not sure how consciously I made these decisions) that unless something was really meaningful, I couldn’t justify the time away for writing, reading, or otherwise enriching my mind.

This weekend, however, held two out of those three or four and they were wonderful.  I had great conversations, I danced from the heart, and I was blessed with moments of euphoria during that dancing.  I was also reminded that although a lot of the great writers were pretty much hermits, a lot of them weren’t and I don’t have to be.  It’s equally important (and probably necessary) to get out of my apartment, out of my head, and take in some new stimulus.  I also noticed that my editor’s block seems to have eased up –  I’ve done more revising of my novel since that night out than I had the whole week previous!

To the artists out there – do you ever fall captive to the idea that you need to devote yourself to your art to the exclusion of taking in some of the other pleasures life has to offer? (Or do you ever just realize that the idea it’s becoming a truth in your life and you’re pretty much living as a hermit?)  How do you get past this? . . . or do you?

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