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Writers and Isolation

When we set up ASPA, we were very aware of the isolation that can accompany writing. There are, of course, people who enjoy solitude and being in complete control of their work, but for many, writing can be a lonely business. This doesn’t mean necessarily that all writers live alone, but for those that do, it can lead to them feeling quite lonely.

But that’s not really what I meant about isolation. Have you ever felt that you would love to sit and chat with the entire world about your ideas, your characters, the origins of your story, and why are you writing it? If you read our ’46-step guide, you notice we encourage NDAs. Nondisclosure agreements are useful even between best friends and you can be certain that the ideas remain your own. It is, of course, good to run your initial ideas by someone you trust and you will need beta readers but, when you are in the thick of creating your novel, it is hard to find people who are genuinely interested.

So, there you are living in this little world you have made, almost existing apart from anyone else. Lee and I have spoken to people who have found this very frustrating and sometimes it has even led to the complete abandonment of the work. If you are in this position (or if you know of somebody who is) there are ways in which you can temper it.

Have a schedule

Try to timetable your day. Put aside time for writing and try to stick to it. This must be what works best for you. I have known people who would do an hour a day. Some do an hour a week. Others who want to stack up a series as quickly as possible can work several hours a day, every day.

If you work on a device, make sure that you take breaks. Believe it or not, twenty minutes is long enough, but I would certainly suggest no more than an hour. Have a ten-minute tea break and return to it after that.

Getting out,

Whatever it means to you, getting away from your working environment is also helpful. For me, the writing process often takes place when I’m away from the laptop. I need quiet spaces where I can see a scene unfolding, the characters I know and love, and what they do next. After that, all I must do is record that once I sit down at my desk. I know some people who cannot work in this way, but for me this can happen when going for a walk, being in a quiet room or just lying awake at night - the latter is not recommended by ASPA :)

Suitable tech

You must all be using technology. Make sure that everything is in tune with your needs. If it is part of your book making, whether that’s uploading or working with graphics online, ensure you have the appropriate internet speed and ensure that any software you use responds promptly. Slow and frustrating equipment and software will leave you worn out and not wanting to write.


If you are in a busy house or environment, find a space which will become your writing sanctuary. It doesn’t matter where this is as long as it suits you and the creativity flows when you are there. In an earlier blog, I outlined the many places in which I had written my first book, and I chose some specifically to inspire the work. They rtanged form cathedrals and castles to hospital.

Is your seating position comfortable and safe? If not, just Google how to set up the right height for a keyboard so that you aren’t getting backache or strains from repetition.

Not everyone agrees with this next one, but I am certain that a tidy environment assists relaxation and the creative process. Sadly, for those countless people I have managed and young people I have taught, my obsession with tidy working environments must have driven them mad (I'm very sorry...)

Connecting with other authors

When I started to write, I was terrible at interacting with other authors, mostly because I didn’t know any. Without naming names, I joined a beta reading group in America when I finished my first book. It was of no value to me whatsoever, but it put a hole in my wallet. If you trust us at ASPA, that’s one thing we really want to help you with. There are just too many schemes out there that will pick your pocket for a little information, advice, or service.

I built up a following on Facebook and Instagram. They couldn’t be more different. Those I follow and those who follow me on Instagram are almost all Tudor historians, work somewhere in York or have a connection to what I do. It is an environment where I can find some useful contacts and conversations. For me, Facebook has been a little more like the wild west and I am a little reticent to join writers’ groups because of how scathing and insulting people can be. Supportive criticism is always useful, but putting yourself in the middle of the market square for a voluntary stoning isn’t. Be astute about your social media choices.

It is early days yet, but we want ASPA to be a community in which everyone supports one other and offers encouragement and useful advice.

Local author groups can also be very useful. I find people humble and interested in other author’s work.

Collaborate on a book

Recently, Lee and I collaborated on a small book for ASPA. If you get the right person, it’s a very enjoyable experience. We’ve always got along and have similar ideas and can discuss each other’s contributions with no offence. Even working hand-in-hand with an illustrator can sometimes be rewarding, too.

Put it all in perspective.

As well as your latest work been the most important book to be published in the coming year, there are also so many others doing the same thing, so remember that there are people out there who won’t think what you are doing is special. It will always be special to you and when you build your audience, they will remind you how good it is, but try not to obsess too much about your book and set your goals too high. There is nothing wrong with having sensible ambition, but please be aware of just how competitive this field this.

Enjoy the process as much as the outcome and when all is done, give yourself a break from writing while you concentrate on promotion and marketing.

I’ve written a lot above about the process. When I started writing, my strategy could have been so much better. I wish I had the benefit of the 46-step guide to becoming a self-published author. Please make use of it. Even if you don’t agree with every step of the order that we have laid out, it will discipline you, and consequently make the task seem less daunting, and will let you know you are not alone in this process.

Please remember to:

• Interact with the blogs and the forum.

• Publish your books in the ASPA library.

• Upload a personal photo to your account. Interactions seem less personal when you do.

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