You’ve heard about it. You’ve been in it. You may have even gotten lost in it.
The writing cave. The mystical hole we decorate with junk food and tea and bury ourselves in to meet deadlines.
It’s comfortable. We have our favorite, overstuffed chair and a wash-worn blanket we cuddle in. A candle flickers in the corner and soft music drifts around our shoulders like a mesmerizing piece of gauze, fluttering in the breeze that sneaks in through the cave’s opening. It reminds us there’s an outside world, so we turn our back and furiously type away at the keys.
The writing cave is a necessary place. When we have a deadline.
A cave is not a place for a soul that is living and breathing and thrives in the light.
Because you know what else you find in caves?
Bats, skeletons, moles. Creatures that shrivel and shrink from lack of sun and fresh air. They become deformed and shadowed. Things that crave the darkness and the stillness and the being-alone-all-the-time.
Think about Gollum. He was once a Hobbit-like creature. He loved playing in the sun, being with other creatures, until he found that ring. It was so shiny, so special, and it sent him into the darkness to keep to himself, keep the ring safe, keep the ring hidden. Until the ring was no more than a whisper of a dead tale and Gollum was forgotten and wiped from memory.
Our stories are very much like a shiny, magical ring. They call to us, they sing to our minds and hearts and make us want to shout what we have to the world. But we don’t. Because it’s special. Our story is precious. It begs us to crawl into the cave, under the, sometimes very real, guise of a deadline and keep to ourselves to do our creative work. Keep our story safe. Keep our story hidden.
Until our stories are no more than a whisper of the tale it once could have been and we become forgotten within our own community.
Yes, writers crave being alone in our writing space and doing our creative work and it is completely necessary to do so.
(you knew there was a but coming)
…when we stay in our writing space and we don’t experience and interact with the world, we shrivel. Our stories become stagnant and depressed and unoriginal because we don’t have the new experiences to feed the little creative creature that lives inside us.
I could bore you with scientific facts about how creativity thrives in a new environment, but I’ll resist. I could preach proven psychological tidbits about how it is imperative that a creative personality have new experiences to make the synapses fire that feed the creative center in the brain, but I won’t. I could recite lists of innovative thinkers and world-famous authors who attribute their creative problem-solving and master storytelling to their travels around the world, but I’ll refrain.
Because you know this. It’s the whisper on the breeze that sometimes sneaks into your cave. You turn your back, because deadlines! Sacred creativity! Fear.
That breeze is a little warm, compared to the coolness of the cave. Warmer than you’re used to.
It speaks of the outside world. Friends ready to welcome you back to the writing tribe. Cultures you’ve never experienced. A salty sea breeze and the call of a seagull. Sand that begs you to dig your toes in deeper and build a sand castle. The musical sound of native French spoken in a café.
Don’t be scared. The writing tribe always wants new members. We’re here. Waiting with open arms.
You can start with a small tribe. Your local writing chapter, some friends who also write. You can go to a writing conference or even a small writing retreat (on land or on the water - more about that below) where you all experience something new, together. Maybe even go to a place you’ve never been before that will breathe fresh life into your struggling story.
Soon, you’ll slowly stop crouching in a hunched over position. You’ll stand, stretch, and for the first time in a long time, be able to deeply breathe.
And you’ll be with others who are doing the Exact. Same. Thing.
And maybe, that story that is wiggling around inside you will finally break from its cocoon and spread its wings.
Are you a cave dweller or do you get out regularly? Do you attend conferences or retreats? Meet with local groups?
Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and an award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she's not cruising the Caribbean, she's dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or writing the stories of the imaginary people that live in her heart.
About Cruising Writers
Cruising Writers brings aspiring authors together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor together on writing retreats. Cruise with us to Belize this October (almost sold out!) or go to France with us in 2017 and stay in a historic chateau with Margie Lawson, Louise Fury, Shelley Adina, Kobo Writing Life, and Literary Translations.
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This is all too true. And something I fight against every day. Thank you for a great article. 🙂
Hi Vicky! I know - it's so easy to crawl into the cave...it's SO COMFY! Maybe a little too comfy 🙂
I am an extrovert who fell in love with writing. I feel like I got to sneak to write, because friends are always concerned about my mental health when I hide in that cave. And, they are out there on the outside whispering, "Look at you - hiding from the world." or "Come outside and live in the present." I found I love living in candyland (my brain) so I would love to escape and write on a cruisin retreat. Great idea.
Hi Candace! I love crawling into the candyland of my stories, too! But I love traveling because every time I come back, I get to add new and more colorful levels to my imaginary worlds!
I am seriously looking into joining the cruise in October- crossing my fingers!
Yay Candace!! We have an absolutely AMAZING group of authors going with us in October! There are only a few spots left! Let me know if you have any questions - christina (at) cruisingwriters (dot) com.
I really enjoyed reading this. I am a travelling writer. I am also an older writer ... yeah I really am. 80 plus in fact and my children welcome me into their homes which are in such great places. Indeed, each of these places feed my creativity and being with my wonderful adult children and young adult grands renews my spirit. I would love being on that cruise to Belize. We went as a family to the Western Carribean in June and Belize was a stopping point
You are 80 years YOUNG! Especially if you're still traveling the world. Look at you! I think that's awesome. And yes, we are REALLY looking forward to Belize this October!! There are still a few spots left open on the cruise!
I've been eyeballing your cruising writers link since Laura started talking about it. Sigh ... 🙂
I'm such an introvert, especially when I'm writing. But I cherish the times I'm at writer events. I can't do the big conferences - those wig me out. But the smaller sized retreats are perfect.
Comment hijack! Just popping in to say that I wrote a post for the Cruising Writers about being an introvert on a writers cruise. You might check it out. Would LOVE for you to retreat with us!
Orly - EXACTLY! That's exactly why we started the Cruising Writers retreats. You get all the benefit of a large conference in an intimate group setting! No more of that conference exhaustion!
As a former and future Cruising Writers retreater, I cannot recommend these retreats highly enough! I had an amazing time on the last cruise, and I learned new techniques that I'd not come across in my frequent participation in classes, seminars, and big conferences. I keep my Cruising Writers notes with me when I revise. And the people were so friendly and wonderful, without being an overwhelming group. I made connections that I expect to keep for a long time.
Join us in October!
Hi Alicia! *waves excitedly!! I LOVE that you keep those notes with you! Margie Lawson's teachings changed the way I look at writing / editing, too!!
Your article made me realize something, and I might have realized it before but had no name for it, but I cave dwell a lot. There is so much truth to this. When I started The Artist's Way and started to making sure I had time to myself every week and made sure I fed myself creatively I started to feel more like myself, more free, more happy. I used to be content sitting in the cave all day for days if not weeks at a time and I realize what I have done to myself. Thanks for taking the time to write this.
Carol - Come into the light! It's fun out here! Plus, I miss you!!
Unfortunately there is no cave for me! Not with a four year old and six year old around. But I know what you mean and in a way I'm lucky that out of necessity my children keep me connected with the outside world.
I went to my very fist writers conference earlier in the year. It was the most energising, inspiring, thing ever. It was also the first place that I called myself, out loud, a writer.
Oh, I totally get this. I, too, have a 4 year old. Which makes me even more addicted to my writing cave. But, having a 4 year old around is awesome for a writer. Those imaginations!! Oh my word! My daughter can spin a tale in seconds flat complete with imaginary worlds, characters, and magical abilities.
Ha ha. Love the imagery here! I'm definitely a Gollum for much of the time, but I know how important it is to get out and interact. When I do I love it, but it's that getting over the hump to make it happen. Thanks for the great reminder Christina! :O)
[…] You’ve heard about it. You’ve been in it. You may have even gotten lost in it. The writing cave. The mystical hole we decorate with junk food and tea and bury ourselves in to meet deadlines. It’s comfortable. We have our favorite, overstuffed chair and a wash-worn blanket we cuddle in. A candle flickers in the corner and soft music drifts around our shoulders like a mesmerizing piece of gauze, fluttering in the breeze that sneaks in through the cave’s opening. It reminds us there’s an outside world, so we turn our back and furiously type away at the keys. The writing cave is a necessary place. When we have a deadline. BUT NOT FOR ALL TIME. A cave is not a place for a soul that is living and breathing and thrives in the light. […]
I'm so a cave cave dweller. I really liked the comparison of the story with "the Ring" 😀 That sums up how I feel quite nicely!
I often need to be reminded not to hide (myself and my story) all the time, so thanks for that!