The Writer’s Creative Cave vs. The Big, Wide World


It’s ok. Come on out!

Most of the aspiring writers I know wish they had more time to write. Their lives are busy, full of obligations and responsibilities. Practicing the writing craft is a luxury that gets tucked into the odd corner of the day, early or late and most often stolen.

My life is much the same and I bet yours is, too.

I make my living as a freelance writer, but my creative writing lives the life of a small, tenacious beast – always hustling and hoarding minutes, fiercely defending the small oases of available time like the precious territory they are. This clever little critter knows that sometimes you have to go underground to get things done, make yourself a hidden haven where you can do your work without interruption from the siren call of worldly duties.

But, sometimes, your creative creature needs to come up into the light. Sometimes, the best thing for your wild writer’s soul is to be in the world, enjoying the moment in the company of others.

I recently met a friend for coffee. We’d been trying to get together for something like six months, but the stars never aligned. Last week, I saw her in the parking lot of the grocery store and impulsively suggested a get together later that week. By some miracle, everything worked out and we were able to keep our date. It was wonderful. We sat at the small table with our steaming mugs and it was three hours before we looked at the time. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Just this morning (when I was meant to be writing this post), I had an impromptu conversation with my dad. I talk with my mom most mornings, but my dad is a night owl and not usually ready for chatting until later in the day when I’m all tied up with being a mom. This morning, mom was out so dad answered the phone. We wound up having a great conversation about life, reality, real estate, parenting, and half a dozen other topics. I hung up feeling energized and optimistic.

Each day, I spend some portion of my work day engaged in digital conversations with fellow writers in a private Facebook group where we discuss everything from how to price a particular kind of writing project to which Hollywood stars we think are sexiest. These random conversations never fail to make me smile, even when they are distracting me from my work.

But, that’s kind of the point. These conversations, these relationships are not just distractions from the work … even the Important Work of writing. These moments and hours of time spent in the light – in the world – with our fellow human beings are food for our creative engines. Though writing is a solitary pursuit, it does not flourish alone in the dark. Yes, we need time to craft and create, but we also need to spend time living. Hemingway, I’m sure, would agree.

You need time to write. I understand. You might feel guilty for taking time away from your writing to meet a friend for coffee, indulge in a long phone conversation, or muck about with “frivolous” online conversations. Don’t. Remember that art and life are inextricably connected. You cannot have art without life; and a life without art, for a creative soul, is not worth living. Think of your time spent above ground and outside your creative cave as refueling. I cannot yet even capture all the inspiration my recent conversations have provided – ideas, characters, stories. I feel like my store of creative energy has been replenished. And what a wonderful way to refill the creative well – spending time with beloved friends and family, figuring out – together – this crazy thing called life.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: qmnonic via Compfight cc

32 thoughts on “The Writer’s Creative Cave vs. The Big, Wide World

  1. I’m of the opinion that you only have so many words, so much energy and so much time to be able to produce your best written work. It’s not like a lot of other activities. And it’s up to you how you schedule that. And it’s also up to you to schedule and do things that aren’t writing, but will also help you write.

    • Yes. And it’s up to each of us to accurately define which things help us write and which things are just a waste of time. 😉 For me, having conversations and life experiences are definitely things that help bring interest and authenticity to my writing.

  2. I think distractions are a necessary part of the writing process. To write, writers must experience life and this often comes through the many distractions that take us away momentarily from writing. I tend to get so drawn into my writing that I forget about the world around me, so I am thankful for the interruptions that take me back to the physical world for a needed break.

  3. Sexy Hollywood stars? That’s so funny! I know what you mean – it’s always a balance, but this post helps keep it in perspective that living life does help with characters, plots, ideas, dialogue, etc. That is my new justification for indulging in things – research for my writing.

    • I also think there’s something to be said for doing the “above ground” things that make us HAPPY. I have never believed in the assumption that an artist must suffer for his (or her) art. I know that tragedy and heartache can inspire in their own way, but my best creations have always sprung from joy, curiosity, and gratitude. Spending time with friends and family help me keep these things top of mind and easily accessed when I am creating. 🙂

  4. Jamie, I tried to send the following message to your email shown in the Guest Post Guide page but it bounced.
    At the risk of being totally inappropriate, I’ll post it here.

    Dear NHWN Group,
    My first notice of your group was on March 14 when I discovered you via Pinterest. I did a couple of links to a couple of your folks in my post that day. Got a couple more there now.

    I wonder if my last three blogs which may be seen at are indicative of the sort of guest posts you might publish on your site.

    FYI, I am a 73 year old male, retired from the USAF, IBM, Lockheed and AMD. Some overlap in those careers. Looks like all of you are all female but I didn’t see a gender restriction as I cruised through your site.

    I like to say that I’m retired but still inspired. I do a lot of web development to pay for my computer, photography and other addictions.

    Looking forward to hearing from you when you get a chance to respond. Thanks.

    • Hello, Lindsey!
      So sorry that email bounced. We’ll look into that.
      Meanwhile, if you’d like to email me at jamie @ suddenlymarketing dot com, I’d be happy to discuss your blog posts with you.

      TKS for your inquiry.

  5. As a new blogger, I have tried to be disciplined with my writing schedule, but the critter you talk about is always playing his (or her?) part! Pulling me away from that allotted time I put aside for just this sort of thing …. writing, thinking about writing, and reading other blogs too! Thanks for yours – it comforted me to know that I am not the only one with a time eating critter in my life!!

    • Those critters are everywhere 😉 I’m bussy writing a novell for a while now but currently its more about generating creativity than actually writing. Looking very much forward to locking myself up in that cave to actually put the words out. Perhaps an idea for you to do as well. Take a few days off, go to a serene place and let the words flow 🙂

  6. To Jamie:

    Great piece, enjoyed it very much! (Same with my Dad–it always made my day to talk to him.)

    To 2davesarebetterthan1:

    I had that problem, too. Now, I have the opposite problem–I often get “too” involved in my blogging.

    Not sure which is worse! <b;-)

    • Sometimes it IS an effort, but – I agree – certainly one that is worthwhile.
      It’s always amazing to me how laughter with a friend can make the world look like an entirely different place. 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on Radhika Meganathan and commented:
    I love to write. It is all I have ever been good at, so I keep doing it, if only to prove that I could be good at something (cooking, housekeeping, nothing works, sigh). Sometimes, I get so sucked into the world of my writing that I resent intrusion in any form. I am such an intense (boring) writer that I can’t even listen to music while I am writing – snatching bits and pieces from a busy never works for me (though I am trying to change this!). Family, friends, the inquisitive squirrel outside my window… at one point, they all feel like they are conspiring against me, by trying to seduce me away from my writing, in the name of companionship, obligations or cuteness (Squirrel, you won’t get met yet!). Sometimes, I wish I can just escape to a deserted island and just write and write and write…. well, wait a minute, if I am in a deserted island, then who I do really write about? Who’s going to be inspire me and amuse me and hurt me and bless me and serve as the catalyst that changes an idea into a story? Darn, I need my humans after all! Just like how JAMIE LEE WALLACE illustrates in this article 🙂

  8. ‘Though writing is a solitary pursuit, it does not flourish alone in the dark.’ How true! If I’m struggling with my latest romance novel or article, sometimes the best thing to do, for me anyway, is to leave it alone and go have lunch with a friend. Or even just walk the dog, or make cookies with the kids. Nearly always the answers I need come to me while I’m engaged with something – or someone – else.

    • I agree – there’s something about shifting your focus that usually seems to jog something loose in the creative brain. 😉 I’m all for dog walks, lunches, and anything else that will get me out of my head and let the answers come in unhindered.

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