Monday, September 10, 2018

To Be Alone

It's been said that writers are loners, angsty artists who seek solitude. We are weirdos who want to be left alone, by ourselves, away from everyone and everything.

Okay. That's fair. And somewhat true. I think.

If you write, do you like being alone? Are you a solitude junkie?

I like aloneness. I'm comfortable with it. Always have been. Too much stimulus can be overwhelming. I can't think. I can't breathe. But that doesn't mean I always like to write in solitude.

I've written here before about the shed I have on my property, the writing space, built solely for that purpose. Built for me alone, to be alone to write. And I love it. Love what it represents and how it functions for me and my work. I am tucked away in a small space, surrounded by books and art. But yet there are times I want to be in the middle of life, not away from it. So, I write in coffee shops, busy one with the whir of the espresso machine, the clatter of ceramic cups, and constant human conversations blanketing the space. But I'm there solely for the sounds of life, not the acceptance of others.

In Rilke's famous correspondence to a budding writer, Letters to a Young Poet, he advises the new artist to stop seeking adoration or affirmation. Never, he says, ask anyone if a work of art is any good. He says the answers are not outside yourself, they are inside. And with this, comes more confirmation that a writer must be one who craves solitude, where he can contemplate his work alone, without the influences of others. The writer, Rilke believed, must find his way through this with his own compass, not the compass of another. 

For years, early in my writing career, I would carry Rilke's book around with me in my work bag. I'd read passages on the commuter train or in my office. I would pull it out when I had doubts, when I needed to tell myself my writing, whatever I was working on, was worthy. With the help of Rilke, I was able to believe in my own art without affirmation from outside, and I was able to accept the aloneness that comes with that process.

Rainer Maria Rilke

So, yes, writers like to be alone. But there's a good reason for this. If we are uncertain, unsure of our own artistry at times—and we are, like anyone who creates—then we need the solitude in order to work things out with ourselves, for we are the only ones we need to convince.

Tell your alone stories. Why is aloneness important to your writing? Or is it? Share.


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