Learning to Live with Solitude

Henry D T

It’s difficult for me to be alone.  I grew up in a family of ten, seventh in line.  Although I moved out when I was eighteen, after my first (failed) year at university, I only had one apartment by myself that whole time, and it was in the year before I married my husband.  We moved to Wisconsin and had two years to ourselves before we decided to host a Japanese teacher in our home and shortly after that, I was pregnant with our first child.

So basically, I’ve nearly always been in a full house.

It’s very hard for me to be alone.

Which is a conundrum for a writer, isn’t it?  It’s a requirement of writing that you focus, that you spend time alone, chewing over ideas, trashing old ones, starting over and cheering yourself on.  Solitude is the necessity of invention.

I have had to learn how to appreciate the companion of solitude, the necessity of being alone with my thoughts, ideas, and SELF.

Don’t get me wrong, I like myself!  I think that I have whole worlds tucked away in the folds of gray matter between my ears.  It’s the lack of background activity inherent in solitude that makes me somewhat nervous.  The requirement to focus only on one thing and to do it well is an alien concept to me.

When I went back to college in my twenties, I started papers way ahead of time, kept up with my reading, maintained well-organized notes on my campus ministry, all in an effort to manage my propensity for over-multitasking.  I recognized that I was easily distracted, especially when writing, and part of that was fear: fear that I wouldn’t finish a poem, a paper, an essay.  Fear that what I had to say was not conservative, focused, or serious enough.  Fear that I was not enough.

I suppose part of that fear came from being from a large, boisterous and intelligent family.  Nine of the ten of us are women, varying in appearance, interests, political stance, and communication style.  Many of us take after our father, and are prone to spontaneous verbal sparring, political arguing, and intelligent discourse.

In my quiet moments, in my solitude self, I am more like my mother: I worry about the state of the world, about things I cannot do anything about, about things I can do something about but don’t have the emotional margin to engage myself in, about things that aren’t (and are) my responsibility.  All of those things are a distraction from getting down to business and Writing.

It’s my goal for the next year to “Enjoy the Silence,” not only to increase my writing productivity, but to start to value alone time and silence.

Wish me luck.



2 thoughts on “Learning to Live with Solitude

  1. I can help you live with solitude :). There is a good book by May Sarton, “Journal of a Solitude” that may help. And a lot of Buddhist writings touch on solitude. Think of it as a gift, a break from the world around you – a place to be cozy and recoup. It’ll be good!

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