Monday, July 1, 2013

A Solitary Creature

"Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think 
the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, 
which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. 
Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."
-Rebecca Solnit

Sometimes, it's not exactly about what we wrote, but the process of how we got there.  The fact that our audience isn't a face we may recognize perhaps makes it easier.  As a writer I can open up, I put my deeper thoughts onto a page and hope that it touches someone somewhere.  The rest is in the reader's hands.  Take from it what you will.  Love it, judge it, criticize it, criticize me, but somehow, let it affect you in some way.  An author does not always know it's reader, they exist on the same earth but they can be strangers.  They could even be sitting next to each other on the subway, oblivious to the fact that they have shared the intimacy of being inside the same thought bubble, one the creator, one the receiver.  However, it is a symbiotic relationship at best; each needs the other for survival.  A reader needs a writer, a writer needs a reader.  One cannot breathe without the other.

The act of solitude, finding it when it is just you and a keyboard, is intimate in and of itself.  As well as the art of finding it in the loudest and most crowded places or in the quietest and most solitary places.  This is where the masterpiece lies.  Writers seek solitude both in the physical sense and the mental sense, we cannot craft without.

I recently read an introspective piece on the art of being a writer that I was incredibly moved by called, "The Faraway Nearby," by Rebecca Solnit.  In fact, this piece became an infatuation, a man I could have a crush on; the last thing I thought about when I went to bed and the first thing I thought about upon waking up.  I've reread it countless times, pulling the meat of it apart, ripping the muscle and sinew, trying to suck the marrow right of the piece.  I joyfully discovered it's not just an article, as I originally thought because it was republished on, but an entire book.  It's a lovely work of art and you should read it too.  I love reading a piece of writing that gets my brain juices churning like this one did.  The same day I read the article, I rode my bike to the beach for the first time in many days as the rain finally let up and I had the afternoon free.  I sat by the water's edge and watched the blue sky become grey yet again.  I listened to the ocean symphony and I contemplated solitude as a writer.  Something clicked.  All these instances in my life added up to the sum of an aspect of my personality that finally made sense to me.  I am someone that needs solitude.  I crave it, I am addicted to it, it is pollen and I am a bee.  In that solitude that I seek, I typically cannot stop thinking.  I always just thought I was weird, until I read this article and realized, "Oh my gosh, I'm a writer, I have been one since high school.  I just took a really long hiatus from college until now where I wrote shitty, unrequited love poems for the most part."  Of course I need solitude often, it's what leads me to my keyboard every day.

I have always been very independent and typically never have a problem doing any activity by myself. Well, let's face it, some activities you just cannot do alone.  You'll never see me on a tennis court lobbing the ball over the net and hoping for some magical force to return it.  However, I am a solitary person.  I need my Bekka time and I require space from people more than the average human.  This has been pointed out to me many times.  I first realized this in a conversation with my mom over a glass of red wine sitting in armchairs in front of their wood stove.  She told me ever since I was a child I never cared much for group activities.  "You always wanted to do things alone, you didn't like being told what to do, you always wanted to pave your own way."  When I lived in Vermont I used to hike and snowshoe all the time alone.  I preferred to worship the vibrations of nature on my own.  I noticed more.  I emerged from the woods calmer.  And, especially during my snowshoeing excursions, the silence.  Oh, the sweet and still silence that snow creates.  The buffer to all raucous creatures in the summertime.  This is not to say I didn't love the sounds of the other season, quite the contrary.  Different energies, different sounds, the immense placidity in one season and the beckoning cannon of sound in the other three.

Two friends in Tulum at different times commented on my need to constantly be alone.  Both telling me I was a bit strange for pushing away the company of others and preferring to rather hang out by myself.  I'm not antisocial by any means, but I require alone time a lot.  More often than not, I would bike to the beach by myself and spend the day on those quintessential Caribbean  beaches thinking about what I was going to write about the following day.  I can't help my need for space, nor do I want to.  The sensation of letting your mind wander, especially after reading a piece like Solnit's, is priceless.  My friend, Melinda, and I used to bond over the fact that we both typically needed to process something inwardly before we were ready to process it in a conversation with others.  This goes for thinking about what I'm going to write, too.

As a writer, it's important to draw those lines of solitude, to make a definite box that you work within.  To turn off gmail, facebook and youtube while you're working.  For me, it is difficult to cut the lines of all communications on my computer, sit with the intention of writing and then actually write.  I try to find a corner of peace, alone to be with my thoughts, to be with the idea that will crescendo into a story.  A story that, unless you are my family or you actually comment on my pieces, I have no idea who is reading.  A piece that often starts as one thing and then morphs into something entirely unexpected by the end.  That's the beauty of art- writing, painting, dancing, whatever.  It's evolving as you breathe more and more life into it.  And it will take you more places than you ever imagined if you let it.  But you have to let it.  And with that allowance, therein lies the solitude and within that solitude a writer's voice.


  1. This is a beautiful piece of writing, Beks. It makes me want to find a quiet place to be alone.

  2. Also, that cat is adorable

  3. Thanks Kate! Yeah, part of the reason I put the photo of the cat in is because they are solitary creatures too. ;-)

  4. Wow, Beks. I love this. This really touched me - you are incredible, and I need to write more. xoxo