The Hermit Cycle

Happy meteorological fall, everyone! I know we don’t technically hit the autumn equinox until later this month, but it sure feels like fall around here these last few days. We’ve had some decent rainfall, which is always a blessing in an area prone to wildfires. Schools are staggering into the new academic year. And the last few days, I’ve had to pull out a few sweaters.


So maybe it’s not too surprising that after our incredibly busy spring and summer and with these hints of cooler weather promising a few months of slippers instead of flip flops and warm tea instead of iced seltzer water, I’m finding myself tempted toward solitude. I confess that the crazy schedule we subjected ourselves to this year is a big part of wanting some quiet, but I think there actually may be a little more to it than that.

I’m calling it the Hermit Cycle, and I think I’ve decided that it’s basically a good thing.


For me, the first stage of the Hermit Cycle is disillusionment. I know that I often call myself a misanthrope, and it’s true that I am almost never shocked by bad behavior from my fellow humans. The beauty of believing in total human depravity is that people rarely disappoint and provide plenty of fodder to shore up that doctrine.


But even though I’m not disappointed by a lot of bad behavior, I do tend to hope for better.

Decent behavior has been tough to find of late. Social media remains a perennial disappointment (which is why I’ve stepped back from it). There is bad behavior all over the news–and lest you think I’m only talking about one side of the semi-artificial red/blue divide, I’m not. It’s on every side, from top to bottom. There are some very disappointing and disillusioning local issues happening in this small town that make me want to retreat from any social contact with anyone. And the fascination with AI-generated content is a little depressing, to be candid. I mean, if people can’t even tell the difference between what the bots generate and what I write, why should I write at all?

It’s enough to make a girl just want to hide from everyone and everything.


I know I said I would try to make more connections this year, but all of the above makes me hesitant to pursue even the new connections I’ve made. I don’t really need more false friendships–been there, done that–and anyway, cultivating friendships is very time-consuming, and why should I bother if people will be awful in the long run?


Stage two of my Hermit Cycle is the processing stage.

I have a theory that one of the reasons creatives tend toward being hermits is because the truth of the world is very overwhelming to us. I think creatives tend to be more empathetic than the general population, and the constant bombardment of emotions from all sides kind of makes us want to retreat. We need space to manage the inputs, process it all, and funnel it into our artistic outlets. I think this is one reason why really good art resonates with non-artists or really good stories resonate with non-writers. Good art gracefully reveals the truths that others can sense, but can’t translate.

I’ve seen a lot of truth lately. And I think I need time to process.


Not all of the truths I’ve observed lately are bad, and not all of them are related to personal experience. And some of the truths that are a result of personal experience are more like bullets I’ve dodged.

But all of these things go into the processing bucket, and that bucket is getting pretty full.

All of these things require solitude…


Stage three is solitude. I shared that the Muse is very chatty lately, and now that she sees that my calendar is more open for her, she’s telling me in no uncertain terms that she has stories to share.

This is a very good thing, I think. I need to finish the second Ian Mac Roy novella, and I want to get a new draft of Soultainted done by the end of the year (or early spring, maybe). I’d also like to write the third Ian Mac Roy novella, eventually; I’m hoping the Muse can hold out long enough to tell me that story.

And in addition to all of the fiction projects, it looks like I might have a new contract for commercial work starting pretty soon. There’s usually a bump in commercial projects in the fall, anyway, so these next few months could be pretty busy on the writing front.

So in order to make all that work, I’m going to need less noise, more solitude. Creative solitude is a real thing–something that most creatives recognize on some level. We need quiet to do the deep focus.


And quiet doesn’t just mean physical quiet or silence. Often, I focus best in noisy places. My daughter works at a casino, and I’ve taken her to work a couple of times and used her shift as an opportunity to work. It’s totally counterintuitive to think that I could get work done in a casino, but I’m actually remarkably productive. I call it “ambient chaos”–casinos, coffee shops, restaurants are great places for ambient chaos.

I think the solitude we need is often more of just aloneness–time when the demands of family, pets, house don’t intrude, time to sort out all the inputs and filter them into something useful and beautiful. I can get that in my office with the door closed, but sometimes, the need goes even deeper–down into a place of pulling back from public interaction altogether (or nearly altogether).

But if I do it right, the solitude stage will eventually lead to stage four: re-entry.


Re-entry is a tricky thing, as I learned from any number of accounts of the space program and stories involving space travel of any kind. Either everything goes well and one lives to travel into space again–or things go horribly wrong and tragedy strikes.

I’ve had my own small re-entries over the years. Every time we travel, there is an exit and re-entry. When I’ve left the kids, pets, and home in the care of my capable husband, I still massive preparations for exit and multiple re-entry issues to navigate.

But re-entering society after a period of solitude is a little different. There’s always a risk that people will take your solitude as a comment on their company (and I confess–that can be true at times). There’s also the risk of taking too much time away and then re-entering too quickly, thus creating the need for another Hermit Cycle–or taking too little time away and needing to duck back into the creative cave.

Right now, on the edge of a period of solitude, I’m not sure when I’ll poke my head out again. I don’t intend for this period of solitude to be a full “going dark” period. But I’m hoping to limit my social interactions to blog posts, church attendance, and incidental interactions in the community for a while.

So how will I approach re-entry after this period of relative solitude?


I need to see how the processing goes, how much work I get, how chatty the Muse gets, how much bad behavior I’m privy to, how I deal with said bad behavior…

There are a lot of factors is what I’m saying.

Defining this Hermit Cycle is a positive thing, I think. I’ve certainly experienced all of these stages before, with varying degrees of success. I’ve let disillusionment make me angry and bitter. I’ve ignored or rushed my need for processing. I’ve gone too dark in solitude, and I’ve rushed re-entry.

But looking at these stages all a little more carefully kind of helps me see how each one is a necessary part of my writing journey. Maybe defining this cycle will help me embrace it.

As I said above, this isn’t a complete disappearance. I will be here next week, and hopefully–if commercial work isn’t too busy and the Muse stays chatty–I’ll have some announcements soon.

Have a lovely September, everyone!

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