Being solitary with someone else

by Suw on February 22, 2009

Earlier in the month, Vince blogged about Valentine’s Day and being single and writing:

Now, it was only the other day that I realised how many things I’ve deferred on the grounds of being single. I have films I’ve bought that have gone unwatched. I’ve never bothered to take my driving test. Boxes full of unused junk lie around the flat. All things undone because I didn’t have anyone to do them with or do them for.

Yet… writing tends to be a solitary, selfish endeavour. It occupies the mind, it takes time and devotion and I suspect if there was a someone else, I would end up neglecting either them or the writing. And as illustrated above, I’m not sure if I can *not* write. Especially because all those worries and anxieties and petty neuroses that prey on the mind during the mundanity of day-to-day existence, they can’t compete with the excitement of conjuring up a new story.

So, yes, sometimes I do rue being single on Valentine’s Day, but not when I’ve got a new story to write.

Having spent most of my life living on my own, I can totally understand this line of reasoning. When you’re on your own, you can please yourself – if you wake up at 3am with an amazing idea, you can turn on the light and write it down and not have to worry if you’re disturbing anyone. You can stay up til all hours writing. You can devote yourself to your words without worrying if someone else is feeling neglected.

I noticed just how true this was whilst Kevin was away. I started writing my current story on 25th October 2008 (and so much for finishing it in a month!), whilst Kev was in the US, and it was relatively easy to get back into the rhythm of it. I tried to hand-write four pages every day, and whilst I wasn’t hugely disciplined, I managed it more often than I didn’t.

When Kevin returned, it suddenly got a lot harder to find the time to write. Obviously I spend 9 or 10 hours every day not in Kevin’s company, but I find it hard to write during the day, except on weekends. “Work” encompasses a lot of things, but it doesn’t yet include writing fiction. I hope one day it will, but right now it’s something I have to find time for in the evenings.

But it felt rude to sit and write whilst Kev was in the room. Our flat is so small that once can’t really go off and hide in another room to concentrate, and even if it wasn’t I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. I love spending time with Kevin – that’s why I married him! – and I don’t want to start hiding myself away from him in order to write.

When you really look at it, though, the “problem” is just a construct. Kevin and I spend plenty of time of an evening just doing whatever it is that we do on our computers. We sit together, either at the dining table or on the sofa, and we do stuff. What’s the difference between sitting next to him and processing email, and sitting next to him and writing? Functionally, nothing. So really it’s just a matter of me becoming comfortable with the idea of writing whilst in the same room as someone else.

It helps that Kevin loves writing too, so sometimes we allocate time to sit and write and that puts me in the right frame of mind. But for the rest of the time, I’m just learning to decide to be in the right frame of mind and get on with it.

I suppose that it could be difficult if one were with a person who didn’t have their own interests, but I can’t imagine I’d put up with a relationship like that for long anyway.

aquafortis February 22, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I sympathize with a lot of this…and even with a home office that I could hide away in if needed, I still usually choose to try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to work in the same room with Rob, our laptops open and (here’s the real problem) the TV on.

The idea of being solitary with someone else is what really resonates for me, though. I’m slowly discovering that I really NEED a lot of alone time, with or without Rob, and I’m a lot happier if I can fit that in…

Suw February 22, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Aquafortis, TV is an issue for me. I can’t focus on writing if I can hear talking, even if it’s something I’m really not interested in. In fact, I’ve always been so attuned to talking, that I can’t sleep if I can hear even the faintest sounds of talking. And it kills my concentration. Makes working in an open plan office very difficult. Radio isn’t so bad, as I can tune it out, I think because music isn’t conversation!

What I found with Kevin was that when he and I are together, I feel as relaxed as I do when I’m on my own. I feel comfortable in my own skin, to the point where I can recharge my batteries even when he’s in the same room as me. I think he experiences the same thing too, which makes me feel like we’re really very lucky.

But even with such levels of comfort between us, it’s still hard to prioritise writing, and to settle down into it, when he’s around. I can do it, but it takes more energy. I think, though, I can train myself to do it more easily if I just get a bit more disciplined with myself. After all, there’s nothing getting in the way but my own stupid head!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: