Jun
18
Loneliness Awareness Week – Combatting isolation as a writer
National Writing Day Presentations at The British Library with Michael Rosen

In 2017 the Marmalade Trust started a campaign to raise awareness of loneliness, and the first Loneliness Awareness Week was born. This year Loneliness Awareness Week runs from 17th to 21st June, and the theme is reducing stigma.

The vision of Marmalade Trust is to create a society where loneliness is recognised as something that is likely to affect everyone. This year 300 events are being held across the UK to raise awareness and to support people to find friendship. Indeed, loneliness is becoming such an issue that the government in 2018 launched a loneliness strategy, and declared loneliness as one of the ‘greatest public health challenges of our time’. The strategy will enable people who are experiencing loneliness to be referred by their GPs to community activities and voluntary services.

It seems to be official that loneliness and isolation can be bad for your health, but what about people whose careers are by their very nature isolating? What about the writer, working from home, who may not see or speak to anyone during the day? How do writers, who love their chosen profession, avoid isolation and loneliness? Below are some suggestions gleaned from other writers.

Top Tips for Combatting Loneliness

Make sure your workspace is positive – if you are fortunate to have a home office, make it comfortable, welcoming and include some of your favourite things on and around your desk. Make sure there is plenty of light and that you have a comfortable chair. If you don’t have the luxury of a home office, and your working at a kitchen table or other space, the same advice applies.

Get out of the house – try and do this every day, or at least every other day. Go for a walk, have lunch in a café, go to the gym etc. There are stories of writers who don’t leave the house for days, and this can be a habit. Fresh air, interacting with people and a different environment will give you a break, make you feel better and could inspire your creativity.

Make sure you take regular breaks – this is particularly important if you are on a screen all day, the general advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that short, frequent breaks are best so a five to ten minute break after 50-60 minutes is better than taking longer breaks every three or four hours. Get a cup of coffee, stretch or just walk around the house.

Meet up with other writers or people working from home – joining a local writing group or group of freelancers is one of the best ways to meet others. Joining online spaces for freelancers, can  help you meet people, but online interaction is not the same as face to face, although you might find other writers online who live close by and how you could meet up with. Many towns and cities have co-working spaces, where those working from home can share office space with other like-minded people for a small monthly fee.  Many cafes with free Wi-Fi have inadvertently become an extension of a home office, and although this isn’t the same as intentionally meeting up with people, you may meet other people who use the café as an office. Also if you are a regular, you would get to know the staff and other people that use the café regularly. This will reduce your sense of isolation and ensure that you regularly see or meet up with people during the working day.

Do some kind of physical activity or meditate–  exercise is great way to recharge your batteries, get fit and focus on something else. Writing can be isolating and it’s easy to become introspective and focus on the negative. Going for a run, to the gym, a for long walk will get your heart pumping and the endorphins flowing, which will make you feel better. Meditation can help you to relax, reduce stress and help improve your attention span.

Listen to music or the radio – this tip might divide opinion, as some writers prefer a quiet environment, while others like to have music or a radio in the background. It is entirely an personal thing, but the main point is that whatever you are listening to shouldn’t interrupt your thought patterns or affect your concentration.

Get a pet – this will definitely divide opinion, and will not work for everyone. However, if you love animals and can accommodate and look after a pet, then you can consider this. Having to look after a pet, whether to feed it, or take the dog for a walk will help ensure that you take breaks during the day.

Calling all writers and those who work at home…

Do you have any other suggestions how to combat loneliness? Join the conversation by tweeting or posting your tips to us on social (links below).

 

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National Writing Day is led by First Story and partners across the UK.