Solitude and Writer Rats

A Talent Development article, “Solitude is not pathology for the high sensitivity personality” asks, “Are solitary creatures like me somehow sick, neurotic or abnormal?”

My guess is that most writers (and most avid readers) are highly sensitive. Like Greta Garbo, they want to be alone.

Is that wrong? Plenty of people say so. (See Sophia Dembling’s Psychology Today post, “Is Our Definition of Happiness ‘Extrovert-centric’?” for a good overview.)

Maybe, however, a thirst for solitude is a prerequisite for a life devoted to words.

In her blog post “The Writer’s Life: The importance of solitude and fresh air,” Celine Roque quotes author Paul Theroux:

“…a writer works alone, indoors, in a room, on a chair, with the door shut. Any young person who wonders what his or her chances are of becoming a writer ought to assess their ability to deal with solitude and, figuratively speaking, an entire working life thrashing around in inspissated darkness. It has been said that writing is a rat race in which you never get to meet the other rats.”

Roque writes about how “getting away” for writers often means getting out, but in solitude: on walks, in a garden, or, Theroux’s favorite, in a kayak.

Author Jo-Ann Mapson responded to the January 2010 death of J. D. Salinger and his (in)famous solitude: “After reading Salinger, solitude no longer felt like a disorder, but rather a kind of holy necessity to my writing self. It might even be the place stories come from.” She continues:

“Unlike my painter husband who choreographs his life, I need quiet to work. Caller ID was invented just for me. When I do venture out into the quirky city in which I live, to museums, or Farmer’s Market, or dinner out, a funny thing happens. I’ll raise my hands to clap for Coleman Barks or finish the bean soup I ordered, and wham, I am blindsided with insight. My subconscious never leaves the desk. If I can’t hurry home, I write down whatever has come to me and champ at the bit until I can spend time with it. Alone. Such moments are the gold every writer longs to discover.”

Finally, for a bit of a different perspective, consider Miriam Peskowitz’s “Is Writerly Solitude All It’s Cracked Up To Be?” where she writes of the importance of connecting with other writer rats whom we trust:

There’s something about being willing to dip a toe out of the room of solitude, into murkier waters, that starts a whole series of unpredictable reactions. There’s something about trusting another person—and being trusted back—that’s an element, a kernel of being able to navigate worldly waters. It’s a first step toward thinking of oneself in more financially empowered, independent, and entrepreneurial ways.”

This weekend, be sure to fill yourself with the solitude you need. Or at least find a coffee shop filled with other writer rats.


The Highly Sensitive Person

How To Be a Happy Introvert

Is Our Definition of Happiness Extrovert-centric?

Is Writerly Solitude All it’s Cracked Up To Be?

On Solitude and Commitment

Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity–What’s the Difference?

Solitude Is Not Pathology for the Highly Sensitive Personality

The Writer’s Life: The Importance of Solitude and Fresh Air

Photo by sanja gjenero

3 thoughts on “Solitude and Writer Rats

  1. I love this, Lisa – I am tried and true introvert, and I’m happy this evening because after my last appointment ended at 3pm today, I turned the ringer off my phone and turned to the stack of library books sitting by my bed, begging to be read. This is heaven to me!

  2. Michelle, thank you! There are so many good resources for this topic.

    Cyndi, that does sound like heaven. 😀 I sometimes turn the ringer off the phone, too (or turn my cell phone off altogether).

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: