The artist in a lonely garret


I referred to myself as a Lonely Garret Writer in my last post, and I feel like I should explain myself a little, and what that means, since I fully intend to use that term in the future. I’m fairly confident that I’ve used that term in the past.

First, some definitions, copy-pasted from Wikipedia because they seemed right to me:


Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental or emotional factors.

Which sounds admittedly less than super, but I’m kind of thinking more about this part:

The existentialist school of thought views loneliness as the essence of being human. Each human being comes into the world alone, travels through life as a separate person, and ultimately dies alone. Coping with this, accepting it, and learning how to direct our own lives with some degree of grace and satisfaction is the human condition.

Which may also not sound that great, if you’re not a LGW. Or, sometimes, even if you are.


A garret is generally synonymous in modern usage with a habitable attic or small (and possibly dismal or cramped) living space at the top of a house.

Which seems flat, but the origins and connotations of the word have greater depth:

Like garrison it comes from an Old French word garir of ultimately Germanic origin meaning to provide or defend.

A garret may be small and cheap, but it’s safe. It’s defensible. And it can exist as a living model of the writer’s mind, depending on the degree of clutter and isolation. (I realized as I was writing this that the room where I do the bulk of my writing is strikingly similar to a garret. It’s over the garage and the ceiling angles inwards. There is one window. I have tacked a lot of shit to the walls.)


A writer is a person who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce various forms of literary art and creative writing such as novels, short stories, poetry, plays, news articles, screenplays, or essays. Skilled writers are able to use language to express ideas and their work contributes significantly to the cultural content of a society.The word is also used elsewhere in the arts – such as songwriter – but as a standalone term, “writer” normally refers to the creation of written language.

Okay, now I’m just being a dick. You know what a writer is, I just felt like I needed to put it in for the sake of symmetry.

Anyway, the LGW is the writer who finds fulfillment and inspiration in communion with their own psyche. Or, not necessarily through communion with their own psyche, but people who take in the stimulus that the world throws at them and then process it in solitude in their own space. Talking about their work makes them feel (and act) awkward. They’re more likely to balk at calling themselves a “writer,” and prone to doing it with a one-shoulder shrug. They’re the poised (or not so poised) introverts who like but don’t need people. People are distracting. They ask you to go places that aren’t in front of your computer, working on your story. And if you let them, they’ll make you feel like a weirdo for not going. Bit of (possibly bad) advice: don’t let them. Be boring and get shit done. In your lonely garret.

This isn’t a remotely new idea. Virginia Woolf talks about the idea of this in A Room of One’s Own (she also talks about the need for money, which … I’m working on it, don’t rush me, Woolf, I’m not scared of you!)(yes, I am, don’t haunt me). I just felt that I should define it because I feel like writers fall somewhere between two extremes, one of them being the LGW. The kind of person who, in another age, wrote until their fingers bled in tiny, drafty attics, succumbed to tuberculosis and died. We’re more advanced now. The spaces are still small, but the doctor’s are better, and since our mom’s can easily call/text/email us to make sure we’re still alive, we’re more likely to go to them.

The other type of writer is the Gregarious Barfly Writer, which I will talk about at some point.

I should preface this—I don’t think either one is better than the other, and I don’t think any writer is entirely one or the other, just as I don’t believe that there are any complete introverts or extroverts. We’re all an amalgamation of different tendencies. But most of us tend more towards one or the other.

And I’m a Lonely Garret Writer.




One thought on “The artist in a lonely garret

  1. Pingback: The artist, drunk, talking about how awesome he is, at a bar | Just Finishing My Tea

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