Writing Secretly Or Together?

by limebirdster

You know when you were in school and you had a test in class and you made an impenetrable wall of pencil cases and stationary across the table and then draped yourself over the desk like the dying heroine in a Shakespearean tragedy so that no one around you would be able to copy your answers? Well, that’s how I write.

(And if you didn’t build the wall of pencil cases, chances are someone was copying off you. Constant vigilance!)

I hate people being able to see what I’m writing. If someone comes into the room when I’m sat in front of my computer I open a game of spider solitaire and I don’t close it until they’ve gone. If I want to scribble an idea in a notebook I do it as quickly as possible in my most illegible handwriting so that no one around me has a chance to decipher what it says.

When I was snowboarding the other week I told the girl who was teaching me that I studied creative writing and she got very excited and said that I’d have to tell her a story. I then went out of my way to start conversations about completely random things every time we were on a ski lift so that she wouldn’t remember and ask, because I had no idea what to say. I have to write it down and then read it back before anyone is allowed to hear it.

If you want to talk about ideas, great, I’m in. I can think out loud, but I can’t write out loud. I can talk about what I’m going to write for hours, but when it comes to actually writing it down, go away, I’m doing it on my own. Preferably in a locked room without any windows.

I love the idea of writing with other people, bouncing ideas around the room and jumping in to each other’s paragraphs, speaking dialogue to each other and finishing each other’s sentences. But I think if I tried it I’d end up rocking backwards and forwards by myself in the corner. If it’s not ready, I can’t share it. If you can read what I’m writing, I’m moving my page. It’s no ones but mine until it’s finished, even if finished is just to the end of the sentence.

How about you? Locked room with no windows and doors or group of people huddled around a laptop together? Anyone else hate to have people leaning over their shoulder? Anyone welcome it?


26 Responses to “Writing Secretly Or Together?”

  1. Ster, the thought of you building some kind of pencil fortress actually made me nearly laugh out loud! I’m quite similar in that I hate people seeing what I’m writing. Not because I think they’re going to copy, but because it just makes me embarrassed. If someone comes up when I’m writing, I will just either minimise it, or just sit there, frozen, not able to write anymore. Great post, made me laugh!

    • Haha, I used to buy pencil cases based on how good they would be in my wall! I think it’s embarassment that stops me too, I always minimise, people must think I’ve got something really dodgy on my screen all the time!

  2. Ster, there’s no one at home but me, and no one at work cares, lol. As small as typing on a screen actually is, they would have to actually get their head down next to mine in order to read this – so if someone comes over to talk I don’t sweat it. Want to freak them out? Change your font so that it’s in a pale yellow. Then the only way you can read it is to left click and highlight 🙂

    Man, I sure remember draping myself over the desk though, knowing someone nearby hadn’t studied AGAIN and would want to copy!

    • I like the pale yellow idea! I think it would drive me insane if I actually tried to do it but it’s brilliant!

      • It kind of forces others to be really overt in their attempts to read over your shoulder. Do it in a small font too. LOL. Then you can look over your shoulder and be like, um, excuse me?

  3. If it is my story, then I agree. Stay away until I am done. My husband stealthily walks up sometimes and looks over my shoulder and I say all the things in that moment that could lead us to Judge Judy. However, I could easily, if writing a skit, play, or sitcom, collaborate with others. In those instances I feel a variety of ideas produce a better end result. I had long forgotten about the forts I would build out of books, pencil boxes, etc., in school to keep the lackadaisical out. Thanks for the memory.

  4. I’m with you! I hate people reading over my shoulder. I can attend write-ins where everyone’s writing at the same time, but I could never write something with another person. My boyfriend’s mother was sitting next to me on the couch last week when I wanted to write, so I had to just sit there and keep my laptop shut because I knew she would try to read over my shoulder, and I couldn’t have that. it drives me crazy!

  5. I’ve never tried to collaborate with anybody on a story and I’m sure it wouldn’t work for me at all! (There goes any hope of writing scripts for series!) I simply cannot work on committees! I’m not aggressive enough. I would just yield to what everybody else wanted in order to get done with it! That’s why I would make a very bad juror. (Fortunately I recently learned that over the age of 72 in Colorado, you don’t need a doctor’s note in order to be medically exempt from jury duty, so I don’t have that problem any longer. There are some advantages to getting old and arthritic!) Anyway, any story I wrote in collaboration wouldn’t be mine, and I would never try it. And I don’t have anybody looking over my shoulder these days, but I sure wouldn’t like it if I did! Complete inhibition!

  6. I can collaborate on a lot of things, but writing sure ain’t one of them.

  7. There is a reason writing is a solitary sport! I’m happy to show you when I’m done. But, I am a slow writer and it just gets worse when others are watching.

  8. I write solo! However, I’ve really enjoyed breaking out of my shell a bit to get through these fiction workshops in school. I can see the value of group discussion around a piece of work, and I received some truly valuable feedback. Still, I’m completely sure I couldn’t have written a word of the story if they’d have been huddled around me at my desk. 🙂

  9. Oh, this is soooo me. Did you copy my idea?? :o))

  10. I had no wall of pencil cases but instead learned to write in an almost microscopic script. That was in the 70s; now my bifocals could not handle it! I also prefer to write solo and i live with someone who constantly wants to read what I am writing. Bother. What can you do? I just write at the coffee shop and tell everyone I am “still outlining.”

    • I’m glad you’ve found somewhere you can write! I tried the coffee shop thing once but I got way too distracted by the food and didn’t get a lot done!

  11. Hi! I’m totally the same. The only other person who reads what I’ve written is my beta reader. And she only reads it after I’m done with it. The writing process for me is a solitary activity done in a secluded corner under a thick blanket. Okay, not really because I live in a tropical country and I might die of heat stroke. But, when I write (in cafes or the library) I make sure my laptop screen is facing a wall and that no one can accidentally lean over and glean a word I’m writing.

    Love this post! I relate to it 100% 🙂

    • The angle of the laptop screen is very important when in public! I’ve been known to fold mine down so low that my knucles are almost hitting the screen when I type, no one can read it though!

  12. I often write sitting on the bed with my laptop on my lap, with my wife next to me. She doesn’t peek, she’s happy to wait until I give it to her to read.

    The only collaboration I have done is on a comic (my friend was the artist) so we had discussions, but the writing was all down to me. I would be up for trying one day though.

  13. Excellent question and post! I hate people over my shoulder and I hate spur of the moment requests…I am the person who thinks of a witty retort 3 hours (days?) later. But once I have had a chance to think and review and rewrite, then I am totally ready to read it out loud. But my memory sucks. Don’t ask me to memorize anything. I am not an actor.

  14. I’m with you! I can’t bear other people seeing what I’ve written and I find myself turning my laptop as subtly as possible if someone sits next to me so that (hopefully) they can’t see what I’m writing. I also keep my notebooks in my bedroom apart from one I carry with me in my bag, and I would be mortified if I saw anyone reading them! I have only ever collaborated with other writers twice in my life. Once was at school, back in the dark ages, when we were split into groups of six and told to write a story in a similar vein to Jason and the Argonauts or Clash of the Titans. Each member of the group was supposed to write one chapter, but none of my group was remotely interested so I ended up writing the first five chapters. Then, just as I was about to finish it, the last member of my group decided she wanted to write her own chapter after all. I was devastated! That was my baby and she ruined it! (As you can see, it didn’t affect me at all. Still grieving over thirty years later!) The second time was at college about ten years ago when we had to split into pairs and write a play. My partner and I were supposed to be writing alternate scenes but I honestly couldn’t bear the way she was doing it so we went to the tutor and begged to be allowed to write individual plays and, thank goodness, she agreed. So, as you can see, I am very much a solitary writer! 🙂

  15. I don’t like people looking over my shoulder, period. Writing, reading, blogging, reading blogs… I just hate that. If I want to share, I will. If not… shrugs*
    My writing is pretty personal to me though. I bang it all out, then I bang my head against the wall as I perfect it. I won’t even let my editing or critique buddies look at it until it’s as close to perfect as I can get it on my own. I always aim for, “There’s nothing I can suggest to make this awesome piece any better. You rocked it!” So I will never show anyone a work I see as subpar. And it takes me a while to decide that anything I have written and edited is worthy of being read by another.
    I’m with you on this one!

  16. Just catching up on a few limebird posts!

    Yes, I think most people hate someone looking over their shoulder when they’re writing. I was thinking about this very thing a couple of days ago, I was at a conference and whenever I wanted to note down something that a speaker was saying, I hated the thought that anyone else at my table might read what I was scribbling, at one point I had to laugh to myself because I meant to write down ‘The advice that the students received was poor’, but instead I wrote ‘The advice that the students received was poop’! And of course I became totally paranoid that somebody at my table had seen me write that!

    I have done colaborative writing at work, for reports and so on, but more where we are each responsible for writing a particular section, not more than one of us writing the same bit together!

    But yes, I think one of the reasons us writers choose writing is because it’s a solitary persuit and we like to work alone!

    • Very funny blooper, Vanessa! And writing in a group like that reminds me of essay tests in college, where you tried to keep other people from copying off your work.
      Yes, I think any writer would prefer to work alone. Not all that gregarious.


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