The Isolated Writer - Andrew Crofts

At the time of writing this, “isolation” is gradually morphing from “voluntary” to “compulsory” around the world because the human race is under attack from a clever new virus. 

It has set me thinking about the whole business of being a loner in life.

Like many people who choose to write for a living, I have always been a solitary soul, a watcher of life rather than an active participant. If I hadn’t had the good fortune to marry someone gregarious and have a great many children I would probably be living up a mountain in a cave by now, (that’s the romantic version, I would more likely have spent my life locked in a bedsit in Brighton, eating ready-made soup amongst stacks of old newspapers). 

Maybe it stems from being an only child who was very much left to his own devices most of the time, (always good to make the parents responsible for everything that isn’t quite as glitteringly wonderful about one’s personality as one would like), or maybe I’m just a sociopath. 

Whatever the reason, it meant that I really had to find a craft at which I could earn a living which would allow me to be in my own company for a great deal of the time.

But I was also born extremely curious, or maybe “nosey” would be a better word, with an urge to visit new and strange places and a habit of asking way too many personal questions of people before it is strictly appropriate to do so.

Combine these two character-traits and writing becomes the obvious career choice. It allows me to stick my nose into worlds that would otherwise be closed to me, ask all the questions I want, hear amazing stories and then go away and write those stories, (or fictional versions of them), on my own. It allows me to spend large chunks of my life reading and watching films or television, and many hours staring out the window, day-dreaming and making up stuff in my head.

These are all the things I was doing as a child. Nothing has really changed in sixty years.

Because I love to live this way, it has always puzzled me that more people don’t look for ways to work from home rather than commuting in unpleasant conditions into offices where they have to co-operate with other people. Whenever I have voiced this puzzlement to others it has been explained to me that I am the oddball here, not the rest of the world. Most people, apparently, relish the crowds and the socialising. Apparently, we are meant to be herd animals, not lone hunters. Most people go stir crazy if they have to endure their own company for too long and few have the necessary self-discipline to work hard without someone looking over their shoulders. This is what I am told.

So, it will be interesting to see whether the enforced isolation of the coming months makes any long-lasting changes to the way people work and interact in the future, or whether most people will be rushing eagerly back to their crowded trains and communal offices the moment the all-clear is sounded.  


Jan Needle said…
I understand the loneliness of the long-distance writer bit very well myself, and love it. But I worked as a sub on tremendously busy tabloids too, and I really miss it even after 30-odd years (not just the demon drinking, either...). And I'm a very sociable animal, but do a lot of lone sailing. Bloody hell - I'm a mess!
Bill Kirton said…
Like you and Jan, Andrew, the solitary life suits me, although I felt a bit miffed this week to recognise that the way I've been living since I took early retirement years ago is no longer a choice but an imposition.
And, like Jan, I miss what was supposed to be a job but which, in my case, consisted in sitting around talking to young, intelligent, interested students about books and getting paid for it.
Umberto Tosi said…
I've worked both - as an editor on newspaper and magazine staffs, with commutes and long hours, and as a solitary writer struggling to create something worth reading. I'll take the latter. Fortunately, I live with a co-creative who values her solitary studio time as much I do my writing cave. I feel for many of us who must now self-sequester without the aptitutde or desire for such, or for those sequestering in thight quarters that do not allow much individual creative space. Best of luck. Stay well and safe.
I seem to have spent an awful lot of time since we started staying at home taking part in online meetings of various kinds and keeping up with the family 'Whats App' group, so I don't really feel as isolated as I would probably prefer to be! But I was quite surprised when one of my husband's carers asked me this morning how I was coping, as I am fine with this method of working and could carry on for as long as it takes.

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