What does a writer’s life look like?

I’ve written for years. I have a multitude of notebooks on a bookshelf in my bedroom. I’ve written stories and articles, blog posts, and poetry (reams and reams of gut-wrenchingly terrible stuff albeit cathartic at the time). I’ve written one good play and several awful ones.

I’ve devoted considerable time and attention to reading books on writing, to doing writing exercises, going to classes. I’ve read stories, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and memoirs voraciously and eclectically, like a magpie, following the shiny literary trail wherever it has glittered.


I’ve criticised myself for not writing more, for not being more disciplined, for not putting my stuff out there enough, for putting my stuff out there too much. I’ve criticised myself for not being a better writer and I’ve congratulated myself when a story, an article, a poem (even) has hit a spot with someone – myself, a friend, a previously unknown-to-me person, our paths crossing momentarily over the ether.

And what I’ve learned is simple: we cannot do this alone. I cannot do this alone.

Yes, the writer’s life is solitary (and let’s be honest, that is what draws most of us to it!). But the reason we go solitary, get still, (get RSI…), is in order to connect, to communicate with others. Like every good story, the writer’s life has at its heart a paradox: we go into our inner wilderness alone in order that we might draw closer to others. We write to be heard. We read to know we are not alone – and of course reading, the sister activity to writing, is also a solitary pursuit for the most part.


The problem is because the writer’s life is solitary, for the ‘active writing’ part at least, we tend to fill in the blanks of how ‘real’ writers write. We criticise ourselves for not living up to a highly self-disciplined model of getting up at the crack of dawn and writing solidly until several thousand (brilliant, erudite) words have been consigned to paper. For most of us, our interaction with the writing life of others only comes at the point of completion – the beautifully printed book we hold in our hands. The book that tells a story that starts, holds our attention and concludes. It feels linear.

Our own worlds, our own messes and challenges – of running a household, of having to go out to work, of managing children and childcare, of fitting in time with partners and friends, taking the dog for a walk, going for a run – means we feel like we fail at the first hurdle. We can’t turn up to the blank page like the great literary giants. This failure often stops us before we have even begun.


But writing is so much more than that. And if we start, ever so gradually, by counting what we are doing, by looking at what we could achieve, then, slowly but ever so surely, our stories are able to unfold. If we realise that writing is not a linear process, that it is cyclical, that as Stephen King says, we have to write to tell ourselves the story first, then we can set aside the criticisms. We can, word by word, start to create something, to say something, to tell a story only we can tell.

Having someone alongside whilst doing that is why I became a writing coach and mentor. To have someone you can talk to about your story, who cares as much as you do. To have someone help you figure out those practicalities of when you write and how you write. To have someone to hang out with once a week whilst you write, silently yes, solitary, yes, but not alone. To have someone support you as you figure out what your writing process looks like, the version that is fundamentally unique to you. This is the work I get to do with writers. It is such a pleasure and a privilege and it feeds my soul to see their stories emerge, grow and fly out into the world.


If you’d like to find out more about writing coaching and mentoring, why not book a free chat with me?

Or if that space, to write in community with others, feels like something you’d enjoy, take this as your invitation to sign up to Ridley’s Writing Room – Tuesdays at 8pm.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close