One of the hardest problems writers face is isolation. Writing, especially freelance writing, is a solitary task. There are many advantages to this, such as the lack of distractions and the ability to work in (or out of) your rattiest clothes. There are disadvantages as well. Isolation can cause loneliness. Lack of structure and interaction can deprive you of valuable feedback. Here are some methods for dealing with isolation.
Coworking is a way many freelancing professionals overcome isolation. Coworking sites are offices or rooms where people gather to work. Most charge a nominal amount for you to set up. They try to keep prices down. Some places are even free. These places thrive on community and cooperation.
Eat Lunch Out
Break your isolation by going out, especially for lunch. Most friends and associates who have jobs will be free for lunch. Your lack of a boss makes it easier to meet them on their schedule. Don’t fret over the lost time of an hour and a half lunch. Instead, schedule your errands around lunch so that you can get your day’s trips out of the way.
Join Professional Groups
There are many groups that cater to writers. Many more cater to professional in general. The Public Relations Society of America, The National Writer’s Union, and the Toastmasters are worth looking into. Look for groups that meet at least once a month. Bring business cards. Make connections.
The advantage of working at home is NOT working without a schedule. The advantage is creating your own schedule. Put what you plan to do that day down in writing. Check it frequently. Develop a workable schedule. For some people it’s a list of the day’s activities. Others us a fixed timetable. Find what works for you. Stick to it.
Consider a Part-Time Job
Even for people who can afford to only write, a part-time job is worth considering. If isolation is your problem, look for a job that will keep you in contact with people. Find a job that will help you meet people with similar career goals, or try a job that has nothing to do with writing. Just be sure that you don’t spend too many hours at your job. Ten hours a week is a good diversion. Anything over twenty is a distraction. Consider volunteer work. It will make you feel good.
Join a Health Club
Sitting in front of a computer 8 to 12 hours a day isn’t good for the body or mind. Balance your work with exercise. Joining a health club is a good way to both stay fit and avoid isolation. Schedule it as part of your routine. Exercising at the same time every day will help you make friends because you’ll be seeing the same people every day.
Make Friends Online
The wonderful thing about having email, Facebook and Twitter friends is that you can take a break and write them whenever you are feeling isolation, and they can do the same. Also, if you make friends in the industry, you can often get feedback on your work. Just don’t spend all your time writing letters instead of working.
I often forget the outside world exists. Sometimes, just stretching your legs and breathing a little fresh air will keep you going when you need to get a project done.
Play Music or Other Audio
Television is too much of a diversion while working, but silence can be just as problematic. Turn on the radio, preferably to a type of music that won’t be distracting for you. Some people like to turn to a news station, but I found myself listening to news rather than working. Rather than music I often play atmospheric sounds such as waves or rain.
Break The Routine, Break the Isolation
Schedules are important, but every once in a while you need to go out and do something that your nine-to-five friends don’t get to do: going to a matinee, hiking, visiting a museum, having a picnic or whatever suits you. Again, remember that you still need to spend the same amount of time writing. That means either starting earlier or working later.
Additional Reading about Isolation and Productivity
This article was updated on December 17th, 2013.