Beating the Self-Inflicted Isolation Blues, Part 1

Riding the success of two bestselling books, I quit my 9 to 5 job and stepped into life as a full-time freelance writer.

I set up a nice office at home. I slept late, worked in my pajamas if I wanted, drank a lot of coffee, and enjoyed living at the keyboard. Sometimes I’d get rolling and write all afternoon and night. I was my own boss. This was freedom. I was a lone wolf. I loved it . . .

. . . for about two months.

Then I got lonely. My wife and two children were the only people I saw daily, and they were usually gone. There were no chats at the water cooler, no gossip exchanges at the mailroom . . . not even kibitzing with a secretary. This was two decades ago — before the internet and email. I had cut myself off from society!

This hurt my writing. I wasn’t getting news of what people were interested in. I had no one to bounce my ideas off. No one was available for brainstorming. I hadn’t heard a new joke in eight weeks. I needed to get out, but I didn’t dare jeopardize my pattern of producing a set number of words each day.

By experiment and adaptation, I discovered several ways to maintain out-of-office contact without disrupting my writing schedule.

Teaching

I discovered that the YMCA, the local library, and several area colleges were interested in my conducting weekly writing classes. This got me out of the house every Thursday night for three hours and put some pay in my pocket. More importantly, it gave me a chance to sharpen my editing skills by critiquing the work of novices. And I benefited from their feedback on my projects (which I frequently read to the class).

Co-Authorship

I approached Holly G. Miller, another full-time writer, with the idea of collaborating. Though we lived 100 miles apart, we talked to each other by sending cassette tapes when we exchanged manuscript pages. We co-authored four novels and three nonfiction books.

We met face to face only a couple of times each year and talked by phone about every three months. Still, that outside contact supported my writing career.

Today, email, instant messaging, and Skype make it even easier — if you can discipline yourself so they don’t cut into your writing time.

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley is the author of Jesus in the 9 to 5 (AMG Publishers) and Man to Man (Kregel), as well as 50 other books. He writes and teaches in Indiana.

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