Monday, June 25, 2012


The word, solitude, means: to be alone, without people.

Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Yet it  takes on different and subtle meanings at different times in one’s life. Not everyone needs the same amount of solitude but most of us crave it at times.

I appear to need solitude more often than most people I know. For me, it means being alone by choice. It does not mean the same as being forced into some form of solitary confinement, or by shunning, or by emotional withdrawal from others.

True solitude is a choice I make – or one I have to make.

I crave solitude when I write.

I can’t work or be open to creativity unless I am alone. To me, writing is like a dream state, which I can only fall into in complete aloneness. Enter another human and I am jolted awake and the dream is shattered. I can’t identify with people who say they wrote a novel in coffee bars or open libraries, on the bus or in their noisy living room. I think perhaps some have not been able to overcome the fears of being alone while creating. I can’t work any other way.

Writing for me, if I'm honest, can also be an escape from the "noisy" world around me, which is curious because most of the time I’m writing  about characters under stress – and they are all talking to each other and to me! I suppose that’s why I have to work in solitude – to listen to a different  form of heartbeat, to work out ideas, past emotions, and many other sentiments through my writing ...

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me. I like being alone in a room. It's almost a form of meditation - an investigation of my own life. It has nothing to do with 'I've got to get out another play.'" Neil Simon

"(The writer) must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” Jessamyn West

"Young Woman Writing" Pierre Bonnard


I crave solitude to read...

Children today are much more active in a controlled and organized way than my generation. I wonder sometimes if this generation of parents realize how important it is for their child to have moments of solitude in their day. Pleasurable solitude. “Alone time” to lay on the rug and think. To draw  or write quietly in a corner. To read a book with no sound in the house but the quiet tick of a clock.
“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence.”  Phillip Pullman

"We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence and private: and therefore starved for meditation..." C.S. Lewis


"The New Novel" Winslow Homer

"Woman Reading in a Garden" Henri Labasque

I  crave solitude when I am sad or grieving. I crave solitude when I am tired or in pain.

Solitude can heal. This quote by the great Wordsworth, below, says everything I want to say.

"When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign in solitude." William Wordsworth.

"Interior With Sunlight on the Floor" Vilhelm Hammershoi

"Bedroom" Vilhelm Hammershoi

I crave solitude in a crowd....

"All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." Blaise Pascal.
“Get away from the crowd when you can. Keep yourself to yourself, if only for a few hours daily.” Arthur Brisbane
“There is music amongst the tree in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  Minnie Aumonier

"Rose Garden" Peder Severin Kroyer

I crave the freedom of solitude....

At my cabin, canoeing as the mist drifts off the lake and the sun rises, I feel the freedom of true solitude. In the city, under the weight of being starved for time alone, I think about those moments that I've experienced, when I was free, and I yearn for them. But I also find comfort in the memory of them.

"Solitude" Thomas Alexander Harrison

"Angel Wing Mist on Long Pine" Margaret Buffie

"The Canoe" Tom Thomson

"I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude." Henry David Thoreau

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


Jo Marshall said...

This is so beautiful, Margaret. Your piece is accented perfectly, as usual, with lovely artistic expression.

We need solitude, and should find it somehow, I think. Thank you for reminding us, it's ok to require solitude, to seek it, and relish it.


Margaret Buffie said...

Thank, you, Jo. I also need reminding myself that if I approach solitude as a healing thing, it can breathe new hope into me. What I call "active solitude" is often the best for me - writing, painting, canoeing, walking alone in favourite places, or reading, can free me from my own painful thoughts and make me realize that things WILL pass if I let them.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Truer words were never spoken (or written). Solitude is a necessary thing in my life, too. That is why I choose to only work part-time. I need the time alone for my thoughts, my musings, my writing. I can do none of these if there are distractions. I used to love walking through the woods behind our house as a child, finding a secluded bay at the cottage and watching the waves and the seagulls. The paintings you included in your post illustrate all of this so beautifully. :)

- Susan

Margaret Buffie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Susan. Those are lovely images you present. I can see the little girl you once were, seeking her solitude. I have also been this way all my life. I am looking forward to heading out to my cabin soon.


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness---powerful post, Margaret. So so true and especially in this so connected world we are in.

Margaret Buffie said...

Thanks, Deb! It took long enough for me to respond! I somehow missed your post and just saw it now. I agree that we seem to be more connected than ever - and solitude after blogging and Facebook is especially important to me, as it does interfere with the quiet intensity of my writing...