It's been axiomatic that writing is a solitary profession. Before I became one, I pictured writers laboring away in garrets, madly typing and piling up pages of text, only coming out after hours alone with their muse.
Now, I admit, that image has a lot of appeal! Today's writer is no longer solitary. it's not only that we have retreats (which I love) and writers' groups (which I consider an essential part of the creative process) but we have this internet thing. It is delight, distraction, opportunity, and danger, all in one. It's getting harder and harder to get away from, and I suspect many a writer having difficulty producing regularly is retreating to the internet every time she finds herself struggling with a plot point or a word choice or a character decision.
I speak, of course, from experience. My motto is "There is no art without discipline," but I never thought "discipline" would mean "disconnecting"! One of my most productive hours of the week is Sunday morning, locked in the car with no internet access, and nothing to do while I wait for the hour Mass begins.
The upside of all this is the delight factor. A writer no longer has to wait forever--if ever--to hear from fans. When I began publishing in 1995, the only fans who thought of emailing me were the very young ones. I had the great pleasure of watching a couple of them grow up through their emails, beginning with no punctuation or capitals and progressing to properly formatted, courteous, adult letters. The relationship of a writer with her fans can grow into something beyond that of just writer and reader. It can be a connection created by a shared world, a mutual passion, a common concern.
Case in point: That rascal Toby Bishop, having recently received a photograph of a Horsemistress Saga fan with her horse, started a page of such pictures. Toby hopes there will be dozens of them, but at the moment there are already some charming ones at http://www.tobybishop.net/tb-readers.htm This is hardly a writer working in solitude. This is a writer getting nearly immediate feedback and response, and being inspired by it.
Pretty cool. But not solitary.