A Day in the Life of a Hermit Writer

I suffer from manic-depressive illness. In the early nineties, I was newly diagnosed and recovering from a complete nervous breakdown. A few years earlier, realizing I had a terrible problem, but not knowing its true nature, I had taken refuge in a shack near a 10,000-acre tree farm that bordered the British Columbia wilderness. All told, I was to spend sixteen years there, many of them in combative cognitive-behaviour therapy.

Log Cabin in Winter Wind

Winter can be hard on hermit writers trying to live on the cheap. (Image: WPClipart)

Old ambitions of becoming a writer had resurfaced so, being essentially shipwrecked anyway, I decided to live off my savings and have a go at writing full-time. The 1990s proved chaotic and painful years for me, so much so that I was never able to finish anything, yet they “made” me as a writer. For years, I kept a diary of my struggles. Those of you who long to be a hermit – writers or otherwise – may romanticize such an existence, especially one lived in a beautiful semi-wilderness area teeming with wildlife, yet the lifestyle itself really is quite mundane. What matters is what you do with all the time. I invested mine in making Jung’s journey of individuation and learning how to write. These two immensely rewarding activities literally transformed my life.

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Are You Fed Up and Longing To Be a Hermit?

One frigid January night in 2002, while living a hermit’s life in my draughty shack nestled beside a ten-thousand acre tree farm, I turned on the radio at 2:30 AM to catch the CBC Radio rebroadcast of Radio Australia’s “The Religion Report.” I am a manic-depressive and sometimes keep strange hours in order to manage my mood swings. Staying up late to deprive myself of sleep shifts me (like everyone else) away from depression.

Forest Hermit and His Hut

The mindset of an anchorite can be useful in everyday life. (Image: public domain.)

On that particular gloomy night, I was delighted to hear Rowan Williams, the then Anglican Archbishop of Wales, do an interview about the ancient Christian concept of what it means to be a religious hermit or anchorite. Badly in need of some cheering up, the unusual topic seemed wonderfully appropriate!

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Writers, Solitude, and Creativity

“Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius…” – Edward Gibbon

Writers sometimes live solitary lives in remote places so they can devote more time to their work.

Writers sometimes live simple solitary lives in remote places so they can devote more time to their work. Yet there are times when solitude is just a state of mind. (Image: public domain)

The widespread self-publishing phenomenon is new, and while there are plenty of older people such as myself involved – or soon to be involved – a majority of new writers are young. A great many of these new or wannabe authors are too young to have the usual underpinnings acquired by writers in the traditional publishing paradigm. With that system, seeing their work in print often took many years, so struggling writers had plenty of time to learn the more philosophical aspects of their profession. Those aspects deepen writers giving their work more intellectual penetration, emotional depth, intensity, and sophistication.

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