Solitude is usually defined as “the state of being, or living alone. Seclusion”.
We have the dictionary definition above, but what does solitude mean for the writer?
In his oft quoted poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” Wordsworth describes solitude as a state of bliss:
“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
There are, of course individuals who do everything within their power to avoid solitude, for they fear being alone with their own thoughts. As Philip Larkin so eloquently puts it in “Aubade”, being alone, in the early morn focuses the mind on death, which is uncomfortable for many:
“Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.”
As a writer, I need my solitude. Whilst I greatly enjoy the company of friends over drinks down the pub, or eating together in a restaurant, I can not concentrate on my writing when other people are in the same space as me.
Most of my writing takes place in my spare room, a place full of books, and an ancient desk which was, if my memory is not playing tricks, purchased from MFI, a store which has long ceased to be.
When family and friends come to visit I do, of course spend time with them. However, when I need to write I retreat to my study as their conversation, the noise of the television, or music playing distracts me and I’m unable to fully concentrate on writing.
Multitasking is, we are told a virtue. This is, in many instances true. One can not, however hold a conversation with a family member or friend whilst simultaneously putting the final touches to a poem. In such situations I wait until the person has left the room before returning to the solitary pursuit of writing.
As stated above, solitude is essential in that it enables me to concentrate on my writing. However I also relish time alone more generally. Many of my poems pop into my head as I stroll in the woods close to my home, and are written down on my return home. Being alone, hearing the birds, feeling the wind on my face and smelling the sweet scent of the flowers are what has inspired much of my poetry.
In conclusion, I agree with Wordsworth that solitude is, at it’s best a state of bliss. Although I can also relate to what Larkin says in his fine poem “Aubade”.
My latest collection of poetry, “Light and Shade: Serious (and Not so Serious) Poems”, is available as an ebook and a paperback from Amazon and can be found here, https://www.amazon.com/Light-Shade-serious-not-poems-ebook/dp/B08B4X3GVX/