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The Solitude of a Writer Can Work Against You.

This is a post from my old blog— The information is dated February 2013, but it is still pertinent. I’ve edited it slightly and share it with you today.

Yesterday it was all over the news that Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, made a change

aimed at boosting the company’s status in the ever-evolving world of e-business. Mayer called an end to the work-at-home policy of the internet company.

As a Southern California resident who has never lived more than three miles from the office for the last two decades, and worked at home for half of that time, I can imagine the gnashing of teeth that this caused. Working at home means you can wear your jammies until noon, drop the kids off at school and pick them up, be available for the cable guy, who insists on a four-hour window and you are lucky if he makes that, and you don’t have to flip a coin with your spouse to see who stays home when the kids are sick.

Was that why Yahoo! did away with telecommuting? Too many people screwing off at home?

Not really.

While productivity is not a problem for employees who covet their ability to work out of the home office, what is a problem is that all these workers are by themselves. There is less synergy, less collaboration.

“If you want innovation, then you need interaction,” said John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University in an article in the New York Times. “If you want productivity, then you want people working from home.”

The solitude of working at home often confronts me. I’ll ponder a particular element of a plot for hours and come up with zilch. But that night over dinner with my wife, or at a meeting of my critique group, a solution will come to me. The interaction of talking it over with other people will often give me the solution.

No wonder many offices are now designing workplaces to encourage employee interaction. Folks get better ideas this way.

As writers we work alone, a lot. What can we do to break the solitude? I have a few solutions:

  • Get a dog and take the pooch for a walk several times a day. You get a change of scenery.

  • If you don’t have anything in writing to share with the critique group that week, talk about a troublesome piece of a story that is holding you up.

  • Go to lunch once a week with a non-writing person. A fresh perspective with often cause you to consider something you had not thought of before in a story.

  • Do like I do and share it with your spouse. My wife has a great mind (she married me, didn't she). She is always a good source for twists and turns in a plot.

A Yahoo! memo put everything into perspective. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings.”

Moral of the story: That lonely writer’s garret can work against you. You have to get out in the world.

See ya’ later.

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