A Writer’s Life: Embracing Solitude 12

I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company. ― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

After the intense social activities during the holidays, I always need a time out. By that, I mean time for solitude and quiet reflection. I believe that though the amount of solitude needed varies by personal temperament, we all need time alone to recharge our batteries, to find our centers, and to reconnect with our Inner Beings. Without solitude, we forget who we are. And without connection to nature, we forget perspective.

Indeed, according to a 1998 Psychology Today article by Ester Buchholz, 

Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alonetime is fuel for life.

Flash forward from 1998 to 2014: constant connectivity — online and offline social interaction — is not only expected, it is demanded. It has become increasingly difficult to unplug, or to go anywhere without our smart phones and tablets, which track our every movement and provide ways to contact and be contacted. Yet as the technology for sharing every aspect of our lives increases, so does our need for solitude. When all these demands are tugging at our shirtsleeves, how do we find time alone?

The answer: We must carve it by hand out of the granite of our lives. Our tools are Intention and Follow Through. I know that carving out 10 minutes of solitude in a day to think, reflect, observe, and be silent can sometimes seem difficult, but it’s never as hard as I imagine, and the rewards of solitude are increased peace of mind, reduced stress, a sense of perspective, and refreshed ability to give to others.

Writing Practice:

Carve out a few minutes of solitude today. Go for a walk or sit quietly in a chair with a view to the outdoors. Do nothing but observe, think, allow yourself to be. Later, write about the experience: What happens when you spend time in solitude?


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12 thoughts on “A Writer’s Life: Embracing Solitude

  • Sharon Lippincott

    Great post about solitude. I’m a hermit at heart and value solitude every day!

    Meanwhile, I have good news about social media. For five weeks, beginning in mid-October, my husband and I spent a few days in Rome before boarding a cruise ship for a two-week loop around the Mediterranean, then stayed aboard for the two-week Atlantic crossing to reposition for the winter Caribbean season. For home security reasons, I don’t do travel-related social media posts in real time. Even email on cruise ships is wonky — slow and super expensive. So we decided on digital detox. I published a blog post announcing I was taking a break, then did. Aside from finding a presumably safe WiFi connection for a quick update to family during the turn-around day between cruises in Rome, that was it. No Facebook, no blog posts. No email.

    The world kept turning. Books kept selling. My writing group kept meeting. People seemed glad to hear when I got home. Perhaps we flatter ourselves that we’re so important we can’t take a break. Be brave. Give it a try! For at least a week.

      • Sharon Lippincott

        Actually, the REAL problem with social media is not the pressure to post, but the way Facebook and Forums can suck me in and I end up staying for … way too long. Facebook posts do not qualify as writing, in my book. Keeping the tab closed so I have to purposely go there and log in is a crutch for me.

      • Amber Lea Starfire

        Sharon, I know what you mean! For me, it’s not Facebook so much as emails and reading other’s blogs. Blogs and their links to other blogs are a rabbit hole I have to stay away from if I’m to get any writing done.

  • patsy ann taylor

    Being alone is such a treat. Having a retired husband is a treat as well, but alone time becomes more important than ever when another person is with me 24/7. Time to sit and stare out the window or take a walk––when the weather is warmer––without interruption is a joy. Thank you for the reminder that quiet time is as much a part of the writing process as the time in front of the computer keyboard.

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    Life’s many distractions and the illusions inherent in participating in the world are pressure-packed and intensive. I compare them to quick sand that can suck me further and further in. But solitude affords me a way out of that quicksand. So I seek solitude every day–whether that is running, meditation, or relaxing in a hot tub of water.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Sara, I love the metaphor of distractions as quicksand. Solitude takes us above the quicksand and lets us see life from the larger perspective. I also use exercise as a form of meditation and solitude. Exercise — whether it’s a walk or something more intense — tends to help quiet my mind.

  • Barbara Toboni

    Thanks, Amber. Solitude is important to me. I have been trying to carve out time to meditate most days. I sit in a darkened room for at least 5 min. and be still with body and mind. Afterward I feel like someone hit the refresh button on my inner computer!

  • Sherrey Meyer

    Like Sharon, my husband and I are hermits at heart. In fact, our personal email address is hrmts@comcast.net (hermits without vowels). So my days are fairly quiet but busy. And busyness can mean distractions, rabbit holes to get lost in when surfing from blog to blog, and then there’s our personal life and the things that keep it together in retirement (insurance, doctors, etc.). All these distractions can destroy a day! But I like the idea of 10 minutes of solitude to just commune with nature. Thanks for a great post — one I really needed.

  • Joani Glasser

    I loved the way you stated solitude and all the comments that followed. Long ago I discovered the benefits of meditation, yoga, and simply time alone. I have resisted the modern technology and have found it can be a big waste of time. I prefer to write by hand and read real paper books. Time alone, without distractions, without the need for others, is empowering and gives me clarity. Thanks again for this reminder in life how important it is to be true to self.