My Weekly Writing Wish for You

I think it is important to identify a difference between solitude and being alone, and loneliness and isolation. I think that, for some people, the simple state of being alone automatically makes them crave human interaction – they feel isolated and lonely, and being alone is a negative experience. Alice Koller writes:

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.

My mother offered me another grain of wisdom (perhaps this blog needs a subtitle: “Advice from Mum”) before I left for Singapore that still echoes in my mind, especially on days when I consciously realise I’m alone.

“You’ll be alright,” she offered, another attempt to get me to stop staring at walls and start packing. “Some people can be by themselves. You’re OK on your own. You don’t get … lonely. You know what I mean. You can be alone and not feel like something’s wrong, like you have been abandoned or forgotten. You just … keep going.”

Clever woman.

Solitude and being alone is hard to achieve. Let’s face it, we’re constantly connected. I won’t lie: on Monday night, I clutched my mobile phone for a good fourteen minutes until I put it forced myself to put it aside and focus on simply enjoying my meal. We can be with people even when we’re alone – technology has given us that opportunity and while I think it’s amazing I can text my grandparents in Australia while I’m eating a meal in Singapore, it’s also detrimental to the practice of solitude.

And that is what we must do. We must practise solitude so that we can better understand ourselves. Solitude and being alone is an art. It is an art I am yet to master, but an art at which I’m improving. I discover parts of myself that can only be found when walking through winding cobblestone streets without a map or companion, when eating a meal without stimulating conversation or idle chatter, or when sitting in a park and staring off into the world that exists beyond this one, crafting stories in my mind.

There are moments when I am anxious about being alone, moments when I feel lonely. But then there are moments when I am alone, moments when I am practising the art of solitude – these are the moments I wish for you.

My writing wish for you this week is for you to spend some time alone. Switch off your phone, leave your notebook in your bag, and enjoy your own company. Take a walk, go out for a meal, or do some people watching from a park bench. Take pleasure in being alone and practise solitude.

This post has also been cross-posted at Budding Writer’s League.

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12 comments on “My Weekly Writing Wish for You

  1. Lauren’s post prompted me to think of the book, “Hamlet’s Blackberry – Building a Good Life in the Digital Age” by William Powers. I think you’d enjoy reading it Stef and doing a review for us all. 🙂

  2. Hi Stef,

    in breaching the boundaries of my solitude I am sending you a communication. Au contra-ire! I agree with you completely on this subject. I totally agree with you – we are crowded in by technology and instant communication with our network of friends and this wanton need for company, it’s not liberating – it’s a trap. Inner contentment can only be strengthened by appreciation and self investment in one’s own company. If we can’t live by ourself, or without other people: what does that say of the self image? Are we uncomfortable, doubtful of our own identity? – If we are, we need to nurture it with soul-searching solitude.

    Also – it doesn’t matter how many people are around you, or how noisy and busy life is – you can be lonely. Feeling lonely is a recognition that your isolation from people or being detached from “life” is unwanted: loneliness is an unwillingness to be content with solitude.

    Blah! Back to my Katherine Mansfield Essay. TTY soon 🙂

    P.S. Hope your not more “lonely” than content in your own solitude over there?

    • Goodness, solitude with a Katherine Mansfield essay! Thanks for breaking the boundaries and sharing your thoughts on the subject! Or have you been trapped by technology and tricked into breaching the peace of your solitude?!

      I am not lonely, though I have some days when I do wish I could just chat with someone or see someone for coffee. I am making friends so that is helping!

      Have fun with the essay =)

  3. Wow, this is a lot of what I needed to hear myself this week! I never thought of solitude as a “virtue” to practice, but now that I have, I have a new goal! Thank you for this!

  4. Couldn’t agree more with the need for some solitude from time to time. I love walking around the city and choosing somewhere nice to eat my myself. I find it liberating and even relaxing!

    • I think part of the joy of solitude is that there is no one else to worry about. You’re not responsible for anyone and so you can choose food YOU want to eat, you aren’t waiting around for someone else to make a decision, and you can simply enjoy what you want to enjoy without having to worry about what someone else does or doesn’t want!

  5. My concern is that I’m far too good at being alone! There was a time when I couldn’t watch a movie by myself without getting out the tissues and feeling sorry for myself. But I forced myself to ‘think differently’ and started focusing on the positives of moments of solitude: being able to read for hours without feeling like I was ignoring someone; watching that trashy chick flick without being judged; doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it without having to make concessions for the wants of others. I discovered this whole new world where I could be happy in my own company. Now I’m one of those annoying people who quotes things like “you can’t make someone else happy if you can’t make yourself happy.” But I believe it…

    Great post Stef!

    P.s. Turning your phone on ‘flight mode’ is also another great way to leave the outside world behind, with the added benefit of still being able to play Angry Birds or Doodle Jump…

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