IWSG—Unbearable lack of privacy


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and lets participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears. This month’s question is:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?

I’m always surprised by the twists and turns my storylines take, even ones I had planned out and memorized backwards and forwards for years. Unexpected romantic matches, characters living instead of dying, things happening differently, new subplots and characters making themselves known.

I also was really surprised at the huge depth of emotion I felt for a character who was killed during the Great Terror in 1937. I’d known for years he’d meet his end that way, but I never expected to cry for him and his impending fate.

He was always an obnoxious pest, but in the end, he redeemed himself as someone with humanity and sympathy, sacrificing himself so his elderly parents, adoptive daughter, baby sister, and niece wouldn’t be arrested and tortured too. I still remember listening to “Careless Memories” as his execution drew nearer.


I have almost no privacy at home, as if being forced to move back with my parents at age 37 weren’t humiliating enough, setting me back at least a hundred steps in my development as a real adult. The nearest library also doesn’t have carrels, and I HATE having to write out in the open at a table. It’s hard to get comfortable enough to let loose and just write for several hours every day under these circumstances.


Last month, I also had the total nightmare of losing the master file of The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. I spotted a typo when looking for lines to use in Tuesday’s Twitter writing events (usually themed around a certain word), and when I went to save the file, I was told there wasn’t enough desktop or disk space. I often see this error message when too many tabs are open and the computer’s been on too long.

I declined the offer to make a duplicate of the file, assuming the error message would go away. Then when I tried to close the file, I couldn’t revert the changes either. This time, I was told I didn’t own the file and didn’t have permission to make changes.

I restarted the computer, believing it’d still be there, minus that one change. Instead the file completely disappeared, and didn’t turn up even with several different types of specialized searches. Odd how its folder bears its last modified date.

I do have two versions on my flash drive, but thanks to forgetfulness and my depression, I didn’t save the most recent version in all that time since mid-March. I didn’t lose as much as I’d feared, and I “only” lost an estimated 2,000–5,000 words, but I’m still beyond pissed I lost all that hard work, including research.

Several details of those lost words came back to me in the days afterwards, and I do have some lines from it on my Twitter, if I scrawl back far enough. Very bitter, painful lesson learnt.


At this rate, I’m not sure I’ll get even the bare minimum of 50K during NaNoWriMo. How can I, with little chances to be completely alone or at least in a private, uninterrupted area? It’s nearly impossible for me to feel comfortable writing when my parents are usually lurking nearby. Might be a psychological reaction to their negative attitudes towards my writing when I was younger, when I began only writing out of the house or when they were gone, hiding the fact that I was still writing.

How do you handle a lack of privacy playing havoc on your writing? When was the last time you lost an important file?


13 thoughts on “IWSG—Unbearable lack of privacy

  1. I like my privacy for everything, not just writing. I feel for you. At about the same age as you I moved back into my parents’ home for a while and that was with a wife and three kids. My father was none too happy with that arrangement. We didn’t stay long because we found an inexpensive apartment near them pretty quickly. It was kind of small so still not much privacy, but it was just us.

    Now with it being just my wife and I at home, we both have plenty of privacy. I love it!

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


  2. I had very carefully removed the vast majority of my manuscripts, etc., to an external hard drive … and it crashed. Permanently. I feel your pain.

    Luckily, in some cases I could download the original m/s from Smashwords if I needed it. Still, it was irritating.


  3. I understand the need for privacy. You need to keep searching for a comfortable place to write. Do you have Paneras near you? If so, some of the ones around here have nice high-backed booths that provide decent privacy – and the coffee’s refillable. 😉 Or maybe you could drive farther to find a more conducive library.

    If you can’t find a place outside the house, tell your parents about your need for more privacy. They might surprise you and even help carve out a writing space for you. My sister struggles with this when she comes home for extended visits and has big editing projects to complete. It takes some repeating and reinforcing, but I think our mum is finally getting it.

    Glad you were able to recover most of that file, even if you did lose a lot. I bet the new words you write will be even better than the original.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, gosh, you have it tough. No privacy is a huge problem, but losing a file is just painful. I have to back up my hard drive. Today! It is going to be my mantra from now on: back up, back up, back up! At least once a week. Right?


  5. Tough problems. I saw Emily St. John Mandel speak last year, and she said she gave up on the idea of quiet reading space. She writes on public transport, hotel rooms, wherever she is when she can find a few minutes.


  6. I’ve never tried writing at the library. My local library has rooms for studying and nice chairs/benches, but I wouldn’t be able to sit and write at one of the tables. I’d feel as though everyone walking by was looking at my laptop to see what I was writing. lol


  7. My heart goes out to you with all you’ve had to contend with. My son & his family (plus 2 big dogs) were with us for 2 months. Although they “officially” move into their new house last week, their stuff is still here. Hubs & I have been alone for almost 20 years, so adjusting to 3 more people was difficult. But not as challenging as I’m sure it was for them, esp the lack of privacy. We tried to give them theirs, but I’m sure it wasn’t enough. I hope you can find a place to write. Re: losing files. My laptop died this summer. If not for the Geek Squad, I would’ve lost all my files, pictures, research, etc. They retrieved it, but it cost. Backing up is so important.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It would drive me batty if my library didn’t have private spots. I can’t write out in the open. I always feel too many eyes on me, even if they’re not! I lost 20,000 words once because I hadn’t backed up. I learned my lesson. Hopefully you’ll have your own place soon.


  9. Thanks for the reminder to back up files today! I lost an entire novel that was my only copy-edited version. I tried to hurry through another copy-edit and that was a second mistake on top of the first. I would have a tough time not finding a private place and I have been known to write in my car and even in a bathroom, to find a place private enough. My family knows that looking over my shoulder is a no-no, thankfully, and they give me space – even on the days that I decide to write in the living room.


  10. I don’t personally need privacy to write (I do most of my writing on the bus) but I definitely would miss it for everything else. We’re the same age and I can’t imagine moving back in with my parents. :-/

    I feel for the lost file, though. I had a file get corrupted on me last year and randomly inserted random characters throughout the document. I couldn’t do a find and replace because the characters and locations were completely random. I tried to clean it up and after a couple of hours realized that every time I closed and reopened the document, more random changes would happen. I eventually had to go back to a (several month old) backup file and start again.

    IWSG September


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