In a mad quest to avoid writing, I found myself reading about being alone. Although I’m all happily married with a dog and a house, not to mention a husband, I spent most of my twenties single. I walked alone. I went to things alone. I went to things with friends. I walked with friends. Sometimes I did not walk home alone, but mostly I did. I got a lot of writing done.
The article talks about Emerson, who was alone frequently and got a lot of writing done. One of the great gifts of writing residencies is the time alone with your thoughts. It’s not just physical solitude that you have, although that is part of it. Other considerations can go by the wayside. No one wants to tell you about something interesting that happened today or go with him to the grocery store. You are there to write.
I got up early this morning and went to the computer to write. I have not been alone with my writing in a long time. Of course when I’m alone and writing, I’m not really alone. I have voices parading through my head. It is the voices of my friends, of what I am reading, of what I have seen, of my writing, of Teri asking me questions I cannot answer, etc.
Yesterday I did not run, go grocery shopping, clean out the guest room, plan my class, or a thousand other things I might have needed to do. Instead I curled up on the couch with the dog and my new 1000-page Everyman Library edition of Joan Didion’s nonfiction.
That is a woman who knows how to write and how to work. Her sentences kill me. “Outside the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas, California, the Downtown Merchants’ Christmas decorations glittered in the thin sunlight that makes the winter lettuce grow.” So exact and thorough and yet it reminds us that we are reading a book about California, even as she talks about Joan Baez.
I realized yesterday that I am beat and I am lazy. I do not have the energy to do this thing, to get the words on the page and then (and this is the part I shy from) to polish them up until they are ready to go out into the world. This is why I took to the couch with Joan Didion and Mr. Dog.
And this morning I wrote. Eventually I get downright agoraphobic (which I realize today means literally that I fear the marketplace). I do not want to leave my room, the space where my words flow onto the page. I shut the door, and will my husband to keep sleeping. I may never get it back. And of course it’s not just him, but my own desire to leave the writing space and do something less frustrating. But today I stayed.
So here is to Joan Didion, warm dogs, and doors that close. May your final draft not be agoraphobic.
Are you alone?