Weekend Edition – Find Your Quiet Place plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Find Your Quiet Place

My quite time view

My quite time view

I love to be alone.

It’s not that I dislike spending time with other people, but I find that solitude grounds me. Quiet time by myself has always been the best way to reboot my system and recharge my batteries. It’s much too easy, in the rumble and buzz of our daily rounds, to let the external noise drown out our own thoughts. When that happens, we feel overwhelmed and unmoored. At least, I do.

And then, a funny thing happens. Instead of stepping out of the fray and back into our own head and heart, we plunge further into the noisy world around us, reaching and grasping for something to bring us home to ourselves. We seek guidance from experts and search out the advice of authorities. We tune into distractions of all kinds, hoping they will help us relax and find our balance again. We assume that the answers are out there somewhere.

But, of course, as Dorothy discovered, the answers are never “out there.” They’re right here.

Solitude helps us untangle ourselves from the rest of the world so we can rediscover our personal truth and reality. This is important for any human being, but nonnegotiable for writers.  Our work, our best work, comes from that place inside us. Though our writing is influenced by the outside world, the core of what we have to offer in our stories springs from our personal well of experience and being. That is where the magic comes from.

Spending time alone gives us the chance to gently or aggressively slough off the layers of otherness. It might hurt. It might be scary. But it will bring you home and it will give you direct access to the source of your stories. I invite you to make solitude part of your writing practice. It’s not easy to carve out even a small pocket of alone time in our over-scheduled world, but it’s worth it.

My private haven of choice is the early morning, before my daughter is awake and before I let the world in through my computer screen. I sit with my journal and a mug of tea. I watch the sun rise, and I do my best to bushwhack my way towards the place inside my mind and heart where the really good stuff is. Some days I can only dance around the perimeter of the forest, but other days I find a narrow track that leads me right to the core. It’s never the same journey twice and never an exercise I regret.

And, I find a lot of stories there, just waiting for me to come into the quiet so I can hear them.

 

What I’m Writing:

sidewalk sproutLast Saturday, I had planned a luxuriously long, uninterrupted block of  writing time during which I hoped to write a story. I was scheduled to submit this yet-to-be-written story to my writing class on Tuesday morning. I had the seed of an idea, and assumed that, with a few solid hours’ work, I would have something suitable for sharing with gentle beta readers.

Oh, a writer’s best-laid plans.

Life intervened, of course, in the form of several, unavoidable distractions that quickly and efficiently consumed several hours of my carefully hoarded time. I had the sensation of watching them evaporate in puffs of white smoke the same way apps disappear off the dock on my MacBook. Though the loss of time was painful, I could have gotten past it and written through the remaining time except for a much bigger problem: my story idea wasn’t fully baked.

I had that seed of an idea, but I hadn’t taken the time to plant it, water it, and help it grow. So, I sat there in front of my blank screen with an inert seed in my hand, and I wondered what to do. I started researching. I started playing with the idea – trying to figure out what I needed to germinate it. I had new ideas. Different ideas. I had questions. Lots and lots of questions.

In the end, I didn’t write a single word.

For class, I dredged up an old piece (the first chapter of a middle grade urban fantasy) and did some editing. At first, I was disappointed that I’d been unable to whip up something new. But then I thought about why I’d been so stumped, and I realized that my stuckness was actually the result of my growth as a writer. I’d learned enough that I couldn’t be satisfied with my half-baked idea. I knew there was something better. Something more worthy of my effort. It wasn’t a matter of worrying about perfection. I was ready to write a shitty first draft. It was about sensing that there was more to my idea than met the eye.

The good news is that I have a second chance to submit a piece in class. And, even better than that, I’ve been nurturing my idea over the past week and I think I’m on to something. I think I’ve started to unravel a new twist that will give me a stronger, more interesting story. I’m so excited and can’t wait for next weekend’s writing time.

 

What I’m Reading:

impossible wolvesThis week hasn’t left much time for reading, but I did gift myself with a story by the writer who is teaching the Grub Street class I’m taking. On her site, Darkness Loves Company, KL Pereira invites readers to “Get Dark” …

Darkness is so much more than the things that lurk–darkness drives our deepest selves, our desires, passions, deviances. It’s the true surrender to the shadow self that lives just inside, in the oldest corners of our bones.

How could I resist such an invitation, especially around the Halloween holiday?

So, I picked out a story called Impossible Wolves. I was able, at the time, to purchase it as a very cool, little chapbook, but it seems to have disappeared off her etsy website now. Still, if you are interested, she has a number of other stories available for perusing on her site.

Pereira’s Fiction I class has done much to not only improve my understanding of the writing craft in general, but also to increase my appreciation for the short story form. The pieces we’ve read in class are fascinating examples of how something that appears simple can, in fact, be dizzyingly and gorgeously complex. There is an undeniable elegance in the shorter forms. The paring down seems to reveal a story that is, in some ways, more pure. I’m rambling, but the point is that sort stories are worth reading.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin solitude

Here’s to finding your quiet place and having time to spend there communing with the stories inside you. Happy reading. Good writing. See you on the other side.

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

37 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Find Your Quiet Place plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Jamie,

    Great piece.

    I have always loved the time just before dawn. Fell away from the practice but in the past week I’m back to early rising and sitting with the tea and the blank screen. The first morning I wrote a poem. And then again on the second morning. A poem each morning for the past week.

    Not for any purpose, or to achieve any outcome. Just what the spirit moves the fingers to do.

    Hope you are well and finding peace.

    Tom

    • Your morning practice sounds lovely, Tom. I have always felt that words come easier to me in those magical, pre-dawn hours. There is something about feeling like you’re all alone in the world that is strangely comforting … gets you closer to the Real Stuff that so often gets drowned out during the day. I’m glad you’ve come back to your sunrises and your poems.

  2. Thank you for another inspiring post! I’ve not read much this last while, not as much as I thought I would. I’ve taken notes for an outline of a future YA dystopian trilogy. I have no idea when I’m to go back to original fiction, but I have some plans/hopes for next year. The project I am working on right now is an upcoming self published collection of essays on Star Wars, storytelling and representations, which I hope will be published early 2015.

    Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

    • You always have so many interesting things going on, Natacha. 🙂 Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your busy day to visit here and share your thoughts. Good luck with the essay collection!

  3. I strongly relate to half-baked ideas, but even more to forgotten ideas. I’m a card-carrying old guy, or at least I should carry a card—to remind myself where I was going before I lost the thought. Trouble is, I forget to make a reminder note before … I … where was I going with that thought?

    I tell myself, “It mustn’t have been important,” but go on to the next thing, feeling like I’ve lost something. Ageing isn’t for the faint of heart.

    • Oh! I can definitely relate to that problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an idea slip away into the ether. It usually happens when I’m just about to fall asleep, just waking up, or driving somewhere. A thought strikes me, and it’s so great that I figure I can’t possibly forget it; but then I do. It’s very frustrating. I have learned to always carry writing materials, but also often use a voice memo recorder on my phone.

      Hope you capture your next bit of inspiration before it slips away!

  4. I loved what you said about our quiet place allowing us to find our own personal truth and reality, something I believe we often overlook and entangle with the reality of others. As a college student, I have endless opportunities, a fact that is both beautiful and overwhelming. Making a point to take a break from each day and unwind makes a world of difference. My mother always tells me to “just breathe,” and I repeat it over and over as a way to bring myself back to that personal reality.

    • Your mother is a wise woman. 🙂
      Remembering to breathe consciously makes a huge difference. I haven’t (yet) mastered the art of meditation, but just taking a deep breath during my busy day does wonders to calm and recenter me. I’ve actually been doing a little experiment this past week – my MacBook has been having some technical difficulties and so I’ve been seeing the evil, spinning wheel of death quite frequently. Instead of cursing each time it shows up on my screen, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. It’s a small thing, but I can say that it’s made a difference during a very overwhelming and stressful time.

      I hope you are able to find a practice that helps you get back to your personal reality and center. Good luck!

  5. Hi Jamie. I’m a morning person, too. When I’m working story problems, I look forward to waking up with ideas that i need to write down, immediately. If I don’t I can remember having ideas, but I can’t remember them anymore. How frustrating.

    Your link from Jane Friedman scared me, especially her three questions. And I just finished my WIP’s first draft. Oh well.

    Silent

    • Glad to know there’s another crazy morning person in the mix here, Silent. 🙂

      I am always scared by various pieces of writing advice. There is SO much to learn. I try not to let myself become overwhelmed and paralyzed by my lack of “mastery” (as if there could be such a thing in any art, especially writing). I love the three questions featured in Friedman’s post. They are Big Questions, but ones that really get you thinking. Could they change the direction of a story and leave you with a lot of new work to do? Sure. But could they make your story even better than you thought it could be. I bet they could. And that’d be pretty cool, right?

      Good luck & “see” you around the blog! Thanks, as always, for spending part of your weekend here.

  6. In my humble opinion, the best I read from you so far (I have not been around long enough I know) I am all for solitude and darkness. Never been a morning person. Night is my best time being insomniac and nocturnal. Enjoy your weekend!

    • Thank you so much, and glad to have you here.

      Sorry about your insomnia. My dad’s a night owl (big time), but I’ve never gotten the hang of being super productive at night. I stay up late once in a while, but I hardly ever get anything done “after hours.”

      But – morning or night – I don’t think the time of day matters at all. It’s more important to simply find that quiet time and place where you can hear yourself think, as they say.

      I’m glad you’ve found yours.

  7. New to this site but so happy I’ve found it. Thanks for the inspiration, loved reading this! I crave my solitude and can get quite cranky if I go without it for periods of time. I’ve gotten away from “writing” but you’ve helped me remember I can just write every day and see what comes out of that. The seed will never grow otherwise.

    • Hello & welcome. 🙂

      I’ve found the same thing – that I get cranky if I can’t have some alone time. It’s tough (I’m a self-employed, single mom … so “me time” is definitely at a premium!), but always worth the effort.

      I’m thrilled if something I shared reminded you that you can “just write every day and see what comes out of that.” I’m a huge fan of Morning Pages (a la Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way). Talk about cranky! If I have to let that practice go for more than a few days, I get seriously cranky! There’s something so inviting and comforting about giving yourself permission to just write whatever comes to mind – no rules, no editing, no one ever has to read it (not even you!). And after years of doing this on an almost-daily basis, I’ve found that many of my best ideas pop out onto those three, humble pages when I least expect to find inspiration. It’s pretty cool.

      Happy writing and have fun tending those seeds.

      • That’s wonderful! I have an embarrassingly large collection of notebooks. I’ve found that the beautiful ones tend to remain empty (I think I’m afraid to “spoil” them with unworthy scribblings) while the run-of-the-mill, spiral-bound ones wind up being my go-to tools. I also love to decorate them with stickers (a hold over from my childhood when collecting stickers was quite the thing).

        Happy writing!

      • Gracie – I love that name. And, she’s beautiful! I ride, too. Just started up with lessons again this year after a twelve-year hiatus. I missed it so much! There’s nothing like communing with an equine companion. There is something truly magical about that relationship. Happy riding!

  8. I started relenting to distractions two days ago and I am trying to find myself back to that quiet place. I am really having trouble getting a post together. I guess because I didn’t give my mind to it but let all those other thoughts in.

    • Distractions can be tough to avoid. We are just coming out of Mercury retrograde, though, so hopefully focus will be easier to find. (I’m not big on astrology, but the full moon and Mercury retrograde are two occurrences that always leave their mark on my world.) Good luck with the blog post!

  9. The first part about solitude reminds me of what Paul Auster wrote in “The Invention of Solitude” about every book being a product that reflects a piece of the writer’s solitude 🙂

    • Hello & thanks for being here. “The Invention of Solitude” sounds so interesting. I just downloaded a sample to my Kindle and added it to my GoodReads list. Thanks for mentioning it.

  10. The quiet place! I love it 😊 My time is before 7am in my office/yoga room, in a little old studio a stone’s throw from the house. Lucky? Yep. I find it a struggle writing fiction. I might not always, but at the moment I still love reading it more than writing it. Good luck – and thanks for the awesome links as usual xo

    • Hello, Sara. Always so nice to see you. 🙂
      Your studio sounds lovely. My writing space is smack in the middle of my living room, but since I usually only write in the company of my two cats (things are too chaotic when my daughter is home from school), it’s a quiet enough space for creative endeavors.

      I have sometimes had similar feelings about fiction. All my public writings are essays, but I am still drawn to fiction … perhaps because I always dreamed of writing stories when I was a kid. I loved inventing worlds and characters to live in them. I still do. It can be tough to get those old muscles limber again after all this time, but the class I’m taking is a huge help.

      Enjoy your morning time. Just wrapping mine up. Time to rouse the child from her slumbers and start the race to school. 😉

  11. Alone time, with only a cup of tea, is honestly the best. I certainly value my time with friends and family, but sometimes I need to be curled up with my thoughts and sort through things. You worded it perfectly!

    • It’s interesting, Annie. I think that our culture often undervalues solitude. There are plenty of cultural messages that tell us how much we should value time with friends and family, but very few that support developing a “practice of solitude.” I wonder why that is.

      Enjoy your tea and your thoughts!

  12. Pingback: Solitude | VSVEVG (very simple very easy very good)

    • Thank you, Abby. Loved your post and wish you beautiful solitude in balance with visiting your family and friends. 🙂

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