It took me a long time to realize that I enjoyed being alone. It also took a long time to know that there wasn’t anything wrong with that. Like everyone else, there have been occasions, many in fact, when I’ve felt unbearably lonely. Although truth is, it hasn’t been so often that I would relinquish the option of being on my own a fair amount of the time if I chose.
I remember the first time I went to the movies by myself how liberated I felt. I could not only buy my own popcorn (small) but I could put as much butter and/or salt on it, as I wanted — guilt free. Unfortunately, for me the elation didn’t last very long. The first movie I chose to see alone was Jaws. I’ve come a long way but I can still be a real girl when it comes to scary movies. If you remember the first 10 minutes of THAT movie, you can imagine I was wishing for some nice strong arms to hide my face in almost immediately. It took a while before I was comfortable swimming in the ocean again or going to the movies without a friend after that experience.
One of my favorite things in the world is when I find a companion who doesn’t require a constant state of active acknowledgement from me. Someone who appreciates silence as much as I do and who can use that quiet wisely and with distinction. Have you noticed that there are some people who fight quiet like it’s theater in Afghanistan and they’re part of the first platoon on site? Those people either talk incessantly taking time only to breathe, eat, and sleep or they are in constant movement as if multiple activities will stave off the quiet as they whistle while they work.
It also took me a long time to realize that I in fact needed occasional solitude. Like the air that I breathe or the water I drink it is a necessity for me to have stillness in my life periodically. It’s not only restorative, it is a great comfort in the jagged, irrepressible world in which we live to know that stimulation need not be a constant or inevitable harangue.
I find my unfettered creativity lurking in my aloneness as well. Like a small, shy child hiding behind her Mother’s skirts or her Father’s broad frame, my creativity can hide even from me when the realm of humanity and daily existence presents itself. My creativity has no patience for the noisy affairs of life. That is not to say it’s disinterested. No, my creativity, like that of many artists’, enjoys watching the goings on from the sidelines and then editorializing on it later.
Some have asked me if, as a writer, I find it necessary to write in silence. Some writers I know listen to music or even have the TV running in the background while they write. I’ve worked both ways and as yet I don’t have a set way that I prefer. Of course outside circumstances are relevant to whether I get anything done but actually, if I am not personally and directly interrupted, there’s not much that will distract me when I’m writing. Many have marveled at my ability to tune out commercials, random sounds, and even people with equal dissection especially if I’m in a “zone” with my work.
In fact as I write this I’m in my favorite café where I can hear cars outside on the busy avenue, there is music (I haven’t picked out) playing, constant activity from staff and patrons, and every time the door opens there’s a blast of cold air that would freeze the balls off a stallion in a minute flat. Yet, I don’t feel interrupted. I feel at peace, at home even. They know me and tolerate me here for long periods. (It does not hurt that I tip well – remember that, coffee-house writers).
At home, it’s a completely different story. If I’m writing there, I find it difficult not to feel interrupted consistently by someone or something, even if it’s just my own thoughts about what’s going on in my life. Whether it’s the phone ringing or some teenagers commandeered my living room, or the never-ending pile of paper clutter near my desk, there is always something else that craves my attention. Meals and beds need to be made, bills need to be paid, and something always needs to be cleaned. By the way, where the hell are my keys and Ms. Z’s headphones? There’s always something.
I have figured out a way to write and create at home when needed. Very early in the morning or very late at night are the hours betwixt and between which provide enough of a dreamlike state that my creativity will come out and play. Whether it plays Sibelius, Billie Holiday, Joss Stone, or Stanley Clarke depends on its mood. But, honestly it doesn’t matter what the music is as long as it shows up to dance.
This past Christmas due to many bizarre and unexpected circumstances there was an opportunity for me to work in complete isolation for several days in a comfortable but relatively unfamiliar environment. It was an amazing experiment especially to act out during a major holiday. I had never spent Christmas alone before…EVER. There were times over the week that I spoke to friends or loved ones through texts, phone calls, and social media but mostly, it was just my musings and me. As they used to say in my olden days, it was da bomb and I highly recommend it.
When thinking about creativity and solitude I’m reminded of a quote from Sheila Ballantyne’s book Norma Jean The Termite Queen, “At least two basic requirements were met: quiet and an uninterrupted stretch of time for the mind to dwell on, and bend to its own variations, any event, catastrophe, or idea presented to it.”
Hmmm, sounds intriguing doesn’t it. Trust me YOUR creativity is even paying attention now. Or maybe you find those requirements easily at your fingertips. Do you? Or do they elude you? Do you find the time to create or do you make it?