Friday, September 9, 2011

Leave the Writer Alone and No One Gets Hurt

Solitude. Alone time. Whatever you call it, I need it like I need air, and I seem to need long, empty stretches of silence and contemplation.

It makes complete sense then to take off for a four, going on five, month trip with four cats and a husband all tucked into about 300 square feet 24x7.

We believed, when we started this journey, that we had come up with adequate coping strategies for alone time. Both my husband and I crave time in our own company. What we didn't realize is just how mismatched we were on the solitude scale. He needs an hour a day of seclusion. Sitting in his cabin for an hour each morning while I piloted us toward our next destination worked for him. Before we left, I thought an hour or two of being alone in the cockpit would be enough for me.

Not so much.

Turns out, I need not just the pretense of seclusion. I need the real thing - no other humans around - a virtual ivory tower that no one else can assail and I need it for hours every day. Without it, my head fills up with noise - voices, rages, anxieties, and ultimately, deep, dark depression. Stop gaps like putting on my headphones and writing served merely as bandaids. Because on board a boat, you're always on call to consult about conditions, wind, tide, current, course and things like 'is that a log in the water or is that a reef?' It's stuff that directly impacts the safety of the boat and the family. Can't blow that off, right?

Until this trip, I'd never thought about the depth and breadth of solitude. Apparently, there are different kinds of 'alone'. Some people want to dabble their toes in the shallows, safely within sight of shore (and other people). Others of us want to sink all the way into the unmeasurable depths where we needn't worry about what might show on our faces while we think our own thoughts and entertain dangerous or silly ideas.You laugh, but I swear, try writing in the company of your loved ones. See if you aren't stopped every single time by one or all of them suddenly needing to talk over issues, or ask questions that require your complete attention.

I don't know what that is - fear? A sudden bout of loneliness because the writer in question goes somewhere else while trying to write? Whatever it is, I know now, why so many writers insist on an office with a door that can be closed, not to be opened unless there's arterial blood or a structure fire involved. Even my husband is beginning to find that his hour a day is no longer enough.

Fortunately, we're once again in familiar water, tied to a dock with a car nearby. Yesterday, I took off and gave him the day alone. Today, he took the car and vanished, leaving me to my own devices. Until my parents stopped by to invite me to lunch. In case I was lonely.


  1. "The depth and breadth of solitude."

    That's a very good point, and one with which you've clearly become very, very familiar. Do you have dreams at night of that lovely hotel in which you would stay for a weekend here and there all by your blessed little lonesome?

  2. I admire your fortitude - I don't think I could do it.

  3. discussion about solitude with otters?

  4. If otters are present, is it really solitude?

  5. I totally get the need for the empty house with nobody else in it. Even if I'm in my sort of studio with the door closed, anybody can (and probably will) barge in at any minute with requests ranging from "can you help me study?" to "Honey, where are my bills?" How can you ever truly relax when there is a human being close by who not only has needs, but also has the belief that you can help meet them?