Community, connection, and solitude

Recently, a couple of things have gotten me thinking about this delicate balance between my need for deep inner silence/listening-silence, uninterrupted focused writing time, play-with-others, and the nourishment of a larger community. I think that most of us move back and forth along a continuum of how much alone time versus with-others time we need. Of course, some people are temperamentally more social than others; some of us move through our days and lives with more outward energy than others.

My thought today is that for writers, the balancing act poses special challenges. We spend so much of our working time interacting only with the story inside our heads and whatever medium we’re using to get the words out. This isn’t reflective listen-silence time, but it is alone time. So when we emerge from a work session, particularly a long, emotionally draining session, we tend to grab for either frantically-social time (making up time with spouse or kids included) or else dodo-brain escape time (in which who knows or cares if there are other people around, we’re in spin-down zone-out mode).

It’s as if we’ve drained one particular creative energy tank so dry that we’re utterly unbalanced. I get the image of a donkey laden with two water barrels, listing faaar to one side and wandering off the track. It’s hard enough under normal circumstances to pause and ask what we really need, what our inner selves thirst for. When we’re in that peculiar state of being wrought-up and wrung-out, it’s even harder.

But what I think is this: I do better when I pay attention to what nourishes me, especially those parts of me, those areas of my life, that get put on hold all too often. I need to write — I love to write! but I also need time to get quiet inside. Time to listen deeply to Spirit, inner and outer. And I do even better when some of this time is in community.

I also need time in which I feel connected to others. To my immediate family, to my dear friends, to my colleagues, to kindred-spirits. I need face-to-face time. I need touch. I need to feel a part of a greater whole, and that I and we are making the world a better place. If I spend all my time here, I end up feeling just as drained as if I spent none. The trick is keeping it all in fluid balance.

The image is Solitude by Émile Bernard (1892), public domain.

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Community, connection, and solitude — 4 Comments

  1. Yes. This.

    Thank you for articulating the concept that in-the-head-with-story time is not the same as alone-time, solitude, inner silence. I thought I was crazy needing both — having trouble articulating that. There have been days when I wondered if I had become completely antisocial or selfish, needing so much alone time. I was alone most of the day, how could I *possibly* resent a few hours of talkative partner, let alone dread a gathering? (And yet hunger for companionship, on a different level).

    • Oh gosh, been-there done-that doesn’t-work. I got a plaque for my door that reads, “Do Not Perturb.” Trained my kids from an early age to Beware The Writing Mommy. Even so, I’ve found it helpful to have a prepared talk along the lines of, “I really want to hear what you have to say, but when my head is full of story, I can’t give you the attention you deserve. It would help me if you asked if this is a good time and if it isn’t, if we can decide on another time.”

      Well, that works sometimes.

  2. For the last two weeks, I’ve been meditating for five minutes every day. Just sitting and breathing, not thinking, but paying attention to the here and now. I started doing this as part of a six week challenge. However, I have found a new habit for life.

    As for balance, I think about this a lot. “Balance is a verb, not a noun.” What I do to balance right now won’t be the same as what I need to balance tomorrow, the next hour, the next minute. It’s essential that we listen before we do what’s needed.

    Thank you for these thoughts!

    • Leah – oh, so true. I’m struck by how much we have to offer one another in terms of experience and insights. We’re between dogs at the moment, but one of my tried and true strategies was to grab a leash, call the dog, and get out under the redwoods. Or start cleaning house. I’m amazed at how quickly writer’s funk dissipates when I’m scrubbing toilets.