Solitaire: The Artist and Quality Time with Himself


"The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
~Ernest Hemingway

"Most artists, it seems are somewhat introverted - and solitude is necessary in order to create, but our lives are not lived out in a vacuum, and the experiences of living are also essential to art. How do we strike a balance? How do we defend our solitude without becoming too much the recluse?" 

Three years ago—to the week—this writer began a career as a stay-at-home wife with no children, which means that I spend the majority of my days by myself at home. Perhaps by expectation I should be starved for social life, as well as bored, but I'm also known for standing by myself in the corner at choir practice and not talking during book club and resenting any buildup of evening engagements. And no, I am basically never bored.

Writers, not to mention artists in general, have a strong reputation for such eccentricities. I'm hardly the first to posit that without behavior described by bemused and occasionally resentful extroverts as "anti-social", much of the art and literature and music of the world would not exist.

(Speaking of writers, Mr. Pond did not post this week, which means it's just Masha and me again. But I like talking to Masha, so that works, even though we miss our fellow blogalectician.)

I'd like to respond to Masha's questions primarily with a question—or rather, two: What is this balance we are supposed to achieve? And when does someone become "too much the recluse?"

Is balance something defined by personal situation, or by outside law, or both? What does it look like? How will we know when we've managed it? Was the seclusion of Emily Dickinson more wrong than that of the Desert Fathers? Society, by default, is run on the extroverted principle, and its little social rules are not made with either the introvert or the artist in mind. Should we take its dictums on what is and is not acceptable keep-to-oneself-ishness as moral law?

As the answers to these questions condemn or justify my daily existence, I've done some writing on the subject already, notably in response to some online commentary and in a previous blogalectic. Others have canvassed the subject as well, and if I weren't writing last-minute today, I might pull up a few quotes. For now, I'll make do with the brief and fascinating statement Masha pulled from the poet Rilke this week:
"I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other."
The Church protected the solitude of the Desert Fathers. Emily Dickinson's family protected hers. My husband and I attempt to protect each other's, and there are not many aspects of our life together that I consider more important for either of us.

Whatever the balance we artistic and introverted types work toward in our own lives, whatever our level of reclusion, this much is true: we have to band together and defend each other's hours of time alone. And defend our own, as well. Even if we never create great art.


  1. Ooh, thanks for giving me direction for this week's post! And I'm so glad you liked the Rilke, it's a constant inspiration for me.

    Fantastic links too! I loved your old blogeletic post, and Mr. Pond's wise words. I especially loved the introvert post..

    off to answer questions now.


All comments are currently moderated. Friendly comments are welcomed with fairy music, magic wishes, and possible unicorn sightings. Troll comments will be Transfigured into decent-looking rocks or Vanished. Spam comments will be shot down with blasters.