Isolation and the Writer

Is it necessary? Is it pernicious?

There's a mythology about the writer who lurks in a garret, producing work of coruscating brilliance. Most of us don't have so much luck! We have to write surrounded by family members, dogs, cats, deadlines, requests to cook, clean, drive people to places, collect dry cleaning, finish this report, come out for a long lunch, leave that until tomorrow, help me do this, look at that lovely sunset, listen to my joke, answer the phone, resolve this dispute, advise on my love life, tell me what you think of this outfit, polish shoes, clean up mess, find my keys ...

Yes, most of us would love a bit of garret isolation.

But too much isolation can be damaging. It leads to sitting at the keyboard feeling depressed and sure that everybody else is succeeding and you are failing. It leads to literary myopia and narrow vision. It can lead to writer's block.

I wish there were some definitive study about where fiction writers write, and why. I know I write better standing up (I have a special stand up desk) and often produce better dialogue if I write on the bus or in a cafe than at home, possibly because I subconsciously pick up the conversations around me and produce more authentic speech patterns as a result. I also know that for scenes of high drama or complex plot twists I need to be left completely alone, with not even the radio or a barking dog to disturb me.

So what works for you?