I Want To Be Alone…

I Vant To Be AloneI’ve read two statements recently that made me go ‘yes, yes, YES!’

Sadly, neither of them was my bank statement but I’d like to share them with you, anyway:

1.“Be alone – that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.” Not a quote from a writer, surprisingly, but from an engineer and ‘inventor’ of another kind, Nikola Tesla, a clever chap (described on the internet as the ‘biggest geek who ever lived’), who hung around with people like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

But I agree with him, don’t you? I have to have that ‘head space’ that only being alone provides, in order to write. But I have, I’m ashamed to admit, only been in my ‘Cave’ once (to write) since we’ve had the puppy.

That’s ONCE since 10th April! I have been writing, at the kitchen table, but it’s not quite the same.

I think I understand Greta Garbo now. She obviously had a short story to write.

2. And here’s the second one:

The very first thing I tell my students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.”

This is the first line of Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird By Bird – Instructions On Writing And Life’, which everyone recommends and which I will, one day, get round to reading.

It seems to contradict what I often tell students on the first day of a workshop – that writing is about making things up and telling lies – but of course what she means by ‘the truth’ is ‘emotional truth’ and truth about the ‘human condition’. She’s not saying that everything you write has to have really happened! (God, how boring would that be! I’d be writing a short story right now about how I fed my pots with MiracleGro last night. Worth doing, by the way…).

If you click on the ‘Look Inside’ button on Amazon, there’s a heck of a lot of Anne’s book on there for free! So much, in fact, that I started to wonder if they’d actually printed the whole lot by mistake.

Have you read anything recently that made you go ‘Yes!’ ?

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12 Responses to I Want To Be Alone…

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    I LOVE being alone! I have friends who can’t function unless they are surrounded by other people but I feel sorry for them as to like your own space and company stops your being fearful of it. Having said that, Helen, both you and I know that with our respective Bonnies, we are never truly alone (which reminds me – I need to take her for a walk).

    • Phew, glad it’s not just me. If I don’t have some time alone every day I start to go a bit mad. (Luckily I have an OH who is golf-mad and that’s fine by me…!) She is asleep at the moment (but primed to leap up if she sees me heading for the fridge or cupboard) but I am never completely alone with Bonnie, I agree. But at least she can’t TALK!

  2. Sara Kellow says:

    Here’s a story for you…there’s a woman, let’s call her Sarah, all fired with enthusiasm for writing after attending the Woman’s Weekly fiction workshop. She’s in the shower on Saturday morning where she has all her best ideas because it’s the only place in the whole bloody house she can be alone. She works out a complete story, characters and everything, one that she has wanted to write for a while loosely based on her relationship with her sister, (it’s quite a long shower), but before she can write it down her daughter is rushed to hospital. Sitting by her bedside in the small hours of the night, in too much turmoil to sleep or write, although she’s definitely going to write it just as soon as she gets home, she remembers that those back issues of Woman Weekly Fiction Special she snaffled on Friday are still in her rucksack. A story called Splintered catches her eye because it’s by that writer whose blog she follows… “Oh B******ks” she exclaims.

    Writing it anyway, with modifications, as CBeebies blasts out from the other side of the room!

    • Oh Sara/Sarah – firstly, SORRY! But secondly, that made me laugh (apart from the bit about your daughter in hospital – hope she’s OK?). But, listen, I don’t even have a sister and the only part of that story that was true, from my side, was the bit about the splinter in the foot (niece/sister-in-law – real incident last year) – the rest I based on an article I read about adopted children who, in the ’60s, could be returned to their birth mothers within 3 months and the devastating effect it had on their new siblings. So, what I’m trying to say is: a) WW clearly like stories about sisters! It beats the old ‘girl-meets-boy’ which they patently don’t like and b) your story is bound to be different from mine both in tone, subject and style – so go for it! And good luck!

      ________________________________

      • Sara Kellow says:

        Thanks Helen, that’s really interesting and encouraging, especially as I have lots of sisters! I should have said I did like the story – the splinter incident stuck me as not being invented and I had no idea about that side of adoption. I think my story has improved for being worked over a little. It’s certainly been keeping me up late when everyone’s asleep and it’s lovely and quiet. And as my daughter just chucked me off the computer so she could play games I think she’s lost the battle to convince me she’s not well enough for school so I might actually finish it this week.

  3. Linda says:

    My latest big, shout-out-loud Yes! was when I read an email from Alfie Dog accepting one of my short stories for publication. (It should be available tomorrow)
    On the writing advice front, my favourite quote is one that leapt off the page at me many years ago and is still pinned on my noticeboard in case I ever forget it. It’s by John Braine (novelist) who said ‘A writer is a person who writes.’ Sounds obvious but the only way to do it is to get those words on paper (or computer screen). The most brilliant, original story won’t make you a writer if you keep it in your head.

  4. I have just put Anne Lamott’s book on my list of ‘things people can buy me, should they ever get the urge’. I love being on my own too. As for ‘yes!’ advice, it’s not really writing related but I’m following a yoga programme online with an american teacher who has given me two gems this week: ‘find the joy in your thighs’ and ‘don’t let your breath find out if your balance wavers’. I’m sure I can apply both of these to life in general!

  5. Philippa says:

    I always thought I was addicted to being surrounded by people – only to discover in recent years that I yearn for that alone time! I particularly love travelling alone: you’re not in the protective bubble that being in company gives you, you can sit and look out at the world from a still place and soak up so much detail; I find it incredibly inspiring in terms of writing.
    I loved this quote from Alice Walker: “‘Fiction is such a world of freedom. If you want someone to fly, they can fly.”, which summons up the wonder of fiction, and came as a timely reminder to myself not to get too bogged down in naturalism – you need to liberate yourself as a writer from all those constraints that lurk.

  6. Alex G says:

    Your blog post made me go ‘yes’!

    Taking a non-fiction perspective – ideas brew when you’re alone, yes. Thinking time in the bath, and all that.

    Telling the truth? Of course – I’d perhaps modify that to ‘uncovering the truth’. In non-fiction / journalism, if there’s someone, somewhere, who doesn’t want that truth to come out – then it’s probably a story worth telling – and selling.

  7. Bird by Bird is so much more than a book about how to write. ‘Take things a bit at a time’ should be the sub title because that really is the best way to face problems, in writing and in life. My own daughter almost died a few years ago and when she recovered she brought the book back from America for me. Brilliant blog, by the way. Am following now and will look forward to the next post.
    Marilyn

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