Why some of the best things in a writer’s life depend on leaving your chair
At least a thousand times a year I find myself coming across that meme other writers are constantly touting – Butt in Chair. Yeah. That.
And I AM sitting here with said butt, in said chair. I do that. I do it more than I should. Take a look at me and you’ll see I could probably use a little less of the chair. But that’s not my point today. Instead, I want to talk about what happens to a writer when the butt is in the chair and…in the chair…and in the chair. When your whole world is in the chair.
Because, the truth is, it’s not. It can’t be.
If your whole world exists in your writer’s chair, you are missing some of the best parts of a writer’s life. How do I know this? Because I am an admitted extreme introvert with a great love for my chair and I learned today’s lesson the hard way. Let me give you a peek at me.
A writer works tirelessly on her novel. She trudges from her bed, downs her coffee, settles in at her laptop and focuses all her energy on building worlds and conveying themes and shaping characters with heart. She is passionate and determined. She publishes. She markets. She promotes others. She starts work on the next novel. Rinse and repeat.
What’s wrong with that? This is the picture of success for an aspiring writer! Publication! Contracts! Butt in Chair paid off! If that’s what you think, you’d be right. If ALL you want is to be is published. And you may hold out like this for a good long while. You may think this is the pinnacle of the writer’s life. I did. I was happy enough. Until, I wasn’t. Like most writer’s, it wasn’t long before I found I wanted more. Sure, I’d published. Sure, I had good reviews. Sure, I was visiting book clubs and speaking at luncheons and every morning, I worked tirelessly on my next novel, downing my coffee, face down in my own words. Until, one day, the inevitable happened.
I looked up.
Now, I could say the whole world had collapsed in my absence, but that would be a lie. No, the truth is the exact opposite. The whole world…had not even skipped a beat. It had rolled on without me. It did not even take notice of all the energy and time and slogging down the stairs and coffee and angst over the page. Honey, I was a veritable Rip Van Winkle, is what. Stumbling away from that beloved chair, I wondered at the changes that had taken place while I was suspended in my imaginings.
Because the truth is, the writer’s life can be a fugue state. If you don’t know what a fugue state is, let me explain.
The fugue state is one of a number of dissociative memory disorders, all of which are characterized by an interruption of, or dissociation from, fundamental aspects of one’s everyday life, such as personal identity and personal history. During the fugue state – which can last several hours or a few months – an individual forgets who they are and takes leave of his or her usual physical surroundings. Upon emerging from the fugue state, the individual is usually surprised to find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings.
Yep, a mental disorder, folks. That’s what writing with your head down can amount to over time. Sometimes, I’d argue, it must amount to something very closely resembling this nutso state, but there’s that part at the end of the paragraph. Did you miss it? Upon emerging. It’s the emerging that matters.
And so, I say, Writers! You MUST emerge!
And as you blink at me like moles, I’d like to make a few suggestions for all us poor, successful, hard-driving head cases.
And go one further and bring the names and contact information of other authors to help your local library build better programs for your community. Do it for free. The library will often allow authors to sell books, but we all know you’re not going to make a living that way, so don’t die on that hill. Let this be about building something ON the hill.
When you broaden your horizons and celebrate all the ways we can inspire one another creatively, you are going to create some wonderful energy that will fuel your ambitions.
Expression begets expression. And none of it could hurt your chair-shaped butt, either.
Part of emerging is that you will find yourself also engaging again, becoming part of the world at large. For me, that part sometimes feels awkward and exhausting. Having a job helps guide me.
This past weekend, I saw some of my own efforts in these regards come to fruition. One day almost a year ago, I left my chair. A conversation over coffee with a wonderful community builder in my city, led to months of planning and hard work and a committee of book lovers who made our first literary festival a reality. All day, I watched the people - the writers, presenting lively panels and workshops, the tents full of student volunteers with baked goods, the eager readers buying up books and chatting with their favorite authors. And I knew that’s what I wanted to share with you today, to remind you of the reach of story within us all.
Can you even imagine a creative life, sustaining and fulfilling as well as successful? Go ahead. Look up. See what your writer’s life has to offer beyond the chair. In the end, here’s my two cents, from one introvert to all y'all - isolation may be necessary for producing pages, but community is necessary for a healthy creative spirit.
What’s stopping you from emerging? What might happen if you took the chance and introduced yourself, suggested events, made connections in your community with the love of story? In what ways could you emerge as an author away from your chair? How might emerging and engaging effect yours and the lives around you?
Kimberly Brock is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, THE RIVER WITCH (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. A literary work reminiscent of celebrated southern author Carson McCullers, THE RIVER WITCH has been chosen by two national book clubs.
Kimberly’s writing has appeared in anthologies, blogs and magazines, including Writer Unboxed and Psychology Today. Kimberly served as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club from 2012 to 2014, actively spearheading several women’s literacy efforts. She lectures and leads workshops on the inherent power in telling our stories and is founder of Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop. She is also owner of Kimberly Brock Pilates.
She lives in the foothills of north Atlanta with her husband and three children, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at kimberlybrockbooks.com for more information and to find her blog.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Thanks for you words. Since I signed my contracts, I've actually tried harder to focus on "real life". Even though now I have deadlines. I also have kids and I don't want them to grow up while I'm looking down. Besides, living life only enriches my writing. 🙂
Sounds like you're doing this dance very well!
Being an extrovert newbie in a small town, I do this, Kimberly. I think if we don't get out butts out of the chair, eventually we find we don't have anything to write about. I mean, there are ideas inside us, but lots of times, something outside sparks them.
You've got it, Laura! Not only does our writing benefit, so do our communities, relationships & our mental health.
As a card carrying introverted troll, this post would have sent me into the darkest part of the cave if it hadn't been written by you, Kimberly. 🙂
I love this --> "isolation may be necessary for producing pages, but community is necessary for a healthy creative spirit." I didn't realize how true that was until recently.
Necessary evil, Babe. 😉
I've had times that I'm completely focused on the writing, but mostly I've never been willing to give up the rest of my life. Which is why I'm not putting out 2 or 3 books a year!
But I wholeheartedly agree that connecting with people in a writing/book environment is both needed and uplifting. I recently did a school visit with a class that had read my book, and it was the most incredible time. I came out on a high that has lasted several weeks (I want to do more!) and the kids got to ask questions about the behind-the-scenes details of a book they enjoyed.
I love that you're reading to kids! One of my favorite things!
I have the opposite problem as an extrovert - I want to emerge ALL THE TIME. The hard part for me is forcing myself to get into the chair. Once I do, the characters keep me company. 🙂
You have to be a choosy Emerger lol
Yep, there's my rub. 🙂
This is such an important post. Especially since after my first two books came out the following year of nose-to-grindstone proposal work netted nothing. Somehow the effort that results in a contract seems virtuous and the effort that results in nothing makes you look like an uncaring idiot. The result: my husband was just invited to grandparent day at our grandsons' school. They didn't even think to ask me. Not sure how to solve this yet, but believe you me, I'm thinking on it.
Give them my number. Kathryn. I'll straighten them out!
Kimberly, you are so right. There's a whole other world that exists beyond our writing cave. And it's important to get out and live our own life, not just with our characters. But I also think we gain insight by our association online also. There are some real characters on Facebook and Twitter. lol. And I'm probably one of them. Oh, and congrats on the award. When I read Bell Bridge Books, I immediately think Deborah Smith, whose brain is on steroids. Love southern writers! Thank you so much for your post today! 😉
I think my online peers have kept me going, Karen! Writers are wonderful online pals. For me, getting out into the real world is the challenge.
Thanks for the congrats. Deb Smith is a treasure!
I know what you're saying is true. Now, I just have to unchain myself from my desk and "get out there." Thanks!
I can't wait to hear what happens when you emerge, Linda!
I agree with Jenny; we extroverts have so many distractions that becoming a mole person ain't really an option. Good piece! Glad I took the time away from writing for NaNonFiWriMo to read it. (see! There! Distractions everywhere! )
BTW, the word is y'all. It's a contraction for you all. Being a Southerner, I guess this is one of my pet peeves. 😀
"SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING." My daughter gave me those words after reading some article. You can probably Google the phrase and come up with all sorts of data on what rotten things long term sitting does to your body. It's really bad. I still sit all the time.
Jenny––I think you've written one of the most important articles about writing I've seen in YEARS. We authors go for the prizes and focus on our literary goals, forgetting our minds and bodies.
Your definition of fugue state is absolutely true. I realized that I come out of them all the time: while I'm writing, nothing else exists. I write in the middle of the family room, with family and four dogs surging around me. I don't know they're there. When I come out, I don't know I'm there. Oooh. That's scary.
I've been working on detaching from the machine for a while, getting up, walking around, being interested in other parts of life that don't involve computers. My most noteworthy attempt to get back into the real world involved buying a mule. The kind with long ears. She's a darling. When I ride her down the street, people stop and say, "My Gawd, you're riding a mule." That's fun.
I still sit too much. Thanks for writing. [Writing, as opposed to sitting, has beneficial anti-Alzheimer's effects. As long as what's coming out isn't gibberish.]
Aw, Sandra, yay for you! I have a mule down the street from me, and I find him to be more extroverted and intelligent than his horse buds.
Opps. In my previous comment, I referred to Kimberly and Jenny. Sorry. More evidence of fugue.
This is wonderful. You never know, it might benefit you in the long run, but you can be certain you'll benefit other people in the short term -- and that is work that is good to do.