I don’t have a place of solitude, but if I did, it’d look like this. :-) (From the TreeHouse Workshop)
I am in the middle of reading “Write From the Heart” by Hal Zina Bennett, and last night I hit Chapter 3: "A Place of Your Own." Just the title of the chapter started the hitch in my heart, the slight lump forming in my throat. Just those words: "A Place of Your Own.” Something about those words struck a chord in me and I immediately thought, Well, that’s never going to happen. I’ll just skim through this chapter rolling my eyes the whole time at this senior-aged man who probably has loads and loads of solitude and peace and quiet. NOT OVER HERE, MISTER! (At the time I was trying to read this chapter, incidentally, I had had to move twice to try to avoid my jabber-mouthed 5-year-old who starts EVERY sentence out of her mouth with the words “Mom...Mom..."It’s like I’m the sun and she’s an orbiting planet. She just. doesn’t. leave.)
But I decided to just plow ahead, figuring I could take mental notes for someday when I didn’t have 3-foot-tall people talking my ears off and using me as a jungle gym every five minutes. Then, something he wrote resonated with me:
“[Solitude provides] a certain sense of safety, not safety from physical danger, such as being struck by lightning or being abducted by space aliens, so much as a guarantee against insensitive interruptions. The creative process requires that we leave the external world and go into the inner one. And while in that inner one, we don’t want to be reminded of the external one. A telephone ringing, a spouse rushing into the room in search of the car keys, a child shrieking in your ear, demanding your attention- all these jerk you out of that inner world that is the life force of the writer. These are not just simple interruptions; to the person thoroughly immersed in the work of writing, they are assaults. Solitude nurtures us, respects the process that we need to follow if we’re to fulfill our dream.”
YES! ASSAULTS! I FEEL ASSAULTED!
Okay, just had to get that out of my system. Mr. Bennett further won my appreciation and admiration with the following:
“I used to believe that this nurturing place of safety we call solitude was an easy and natural thing, that everyone knew what it was and experienced it in their lives at least once in a while.” He then went on to share an experience he had doing a guided visualization on finding solitude with a group of people at a writing workshop, and how people- especially many women- began sobbing, because they had discovered that their lives were so lacking in solitude. And then he said this: “The men in the class reported fewer problems with solitude. Most of them had not only experienced it many times, they almost took it for granted, demanding and getting it from the world.” He went on to say, “The people who dream of writing but can’t, who complain of ‘writer’s block,’ or of simply being unable to begin, are the same ones who have no place of solitude in their lives.”
Ladies, this is the problem. After I read this, I realized why that lump in my throat had been there when I’d read the chapter title, “A Place of Your Own.” Because it’s something I crave, something I need for my writing, and to see another writer lay it out so plainly like that, and to have him acknowledge that solitude can be a hard-won prize for us women- well, it just made me feel validated somehow. I kind of wanted to start singing, “I can’t get noooo so-li-tuuuuude!” (Like “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”? Get it?)
So anyway, now I feel validated, and now I know that hey, guess what? I can ask for solitude. I can make a conscious choice to go away for a little while, because it is what I need to have in order to create. And I can tell my husband and my kids that it’s what I need. I can take ownership of that need for solitude and I can ask for it and that’s okay.
While writing this I had a toddler covered in chocolate ice cream from head to tummy tell me that she needed a bath, a daughter asking for help with her church homework, the five-year-old asking me at least 17 questions (right now it’s “What does this SPEECH BUBBLE say??” while shoving a book in my face. Just a second ago she was poking at the keys on my computer) and then the toddler coming back saying, “I TOOK A BATH MOM!” Now the 5-year-old is back asking me, “Mom...Mom...what do you do with THIIIIS?” and shoving an activity book in my face, and my older daughter saying, “Mom, do we really have to go to bed right now? Dad says we have to go to bed right now and it’s only 6:30. Do we really have to?” And the toddler just came and tossed “A Writer’s Heart” off the chair where I’m sitting and squeezed herself in next to me saying, “Hi, Mom. How you been?” *sigh* You’d think I just ignored them all the time, but I really don’t. I promise I don’t.