Monday, August 22, 2011

Where I Go #3: How To Be Alone

by: Becca Christiansen

The question of where I go to write is more complicated than a matter of physical location. It has a lot to do with my age and what stage of my life I’m at, and the steps I’ve taken to get here.

I wrote my first novels when I was twelve, and at those ages I would stay up until ungodly hours in the morning, typing away madly at my dad’s computer in his basement office. I wasn’t allowed to be down there, but since I was so gripped by stories I had no choice but to pound out the words any time I could grab a spare moment alone.

I started writing seriously when I was fourteen. I’ve been a writer since I learned how to form words with a big, red Kindergarten pencil, but fourteen is the age I began to commit to it. No more stolen hours at Dad’s computer for me. I stopped writing by computer and started writing longhand. When I think back on that, it boggles my mind. I wrote seven novels by hand, on loose-leaf paper borrowed from my school binders. Seven! While my hand aches just thinking about attempting this now, at the time it made sense. I had to write whenever I could, and writing by hand meant it was portable.

And so I became The Girl Who Writes Stories. I had a yellow folder full of pages of scribbles, and I never went anywhere without it. I wrote underneath my schoolbooks in class, I wrote on buses to field trips, I wrote all the time. Only an hour or so after school would I really sit down specifically to write, but the words accumulated anyway from my stolen moments during the day.

My schoolwork suffered. I almost failed a few courses in grade nine because I spent all my time and energy writing. I also was a whole lot less social than most kids my age. Instead of going out to parties with friends, I stayed in and played with the people inside my head.
If you want to be a serious writer, that is one skill you have to perfect: the ability to be alone. No matter whether you’re writing in a coffee shop, library, or in your own bedroom, you have to have the drive, determination, and focus to be able to be by yourself for long stretches of time.

There’s a reason most of us writers are introverts. We draw our energy from our time alone, rather than from socializing, and writing is the perfect opportunity to close a door and tell the world, “I’m busy, don’t bother me.”

These days, I write and live in a tiny, messy bedroom in my family’s home. I’ll be turning twenty next month, but I’m still living with my parents, and plan to for some time yet. At my age and income level, living on my own would mean living with roommates, and with roommates, I’m not guaranteed the time alone to write that I can get now. Roommates may not understand my need to be in solitary confinement for large portions of the day. They might worry about me and contemplate calling the local psych hospital. At home, with family that understands my strange habits, I’m safe to close the door, retreat into myself, and create.

Because even though the ability to be alone is crucial, it’s also important to have a family that is there for you when you need to socialize -- and understands that socialization, for crazy writer-types, tends to happen in manic bursts of desire to play board games all night long.

Becca Christiansen is a 19-year-old YA writer and blogger. She is Canadian and, by default, a rabid hockey fan. Visit her blog at

For more info on this guest submissions series, visit the "Where I Go" submissions page


  1. yay for becca! i adore her blog, her writing, and her in general. in, like, the most non-creepy way possible, of course :P

    anyway, i loved this line: No matter whether you’re writing in a coffee shop, library, or in your own bedroom, you have to have the drive, determination, and focus to be able to be by yourself for long stretches of time.

    So. freaking. true!

  2. Thanks Aleeza! <3 I adore you, as well!