On Silence and Solitude

AloneSolitude is sustenance: food for the deprived self. We enter solitude for many reasons: to rest…, to hear the sound of our voice, to nurture our creative energies…

Florence Falk, On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone.

It’s early afternoon and I sit at my computer, ready to write.  My house is silent. The boys have returned to their dad’s house. There’s no TV or radio in the background, no music playing. It’s absolutely quiet, calm, peaceful. And I love this, both the silence and the solitude. It’s something I crave.

It sometimes takes me by surprise how much I like solitude. I always think of myself as being at the far end of the extrovert scale. I love getting together with friends, meeting new people, and attending parties. I’m perfectly comfortable speaking out at a meeting or making a presentation. I quite like being in the spotlight. But when I find myself alone, when I have a few days off, as I do this week, I am perfectly happy to curl up on my couch and read, or spend an hour writing in my journal, or take the time to clean an overflowing closet. I am happy in my own company. And there are gifts for me in solitude and silence.

Beach finds

After a couple of quiet days, I feel a sense of peace. Silence and solitude, for me, are restorative. And as I live in that quiet space, I begin to hear my writing voice more clearly.  I’m puttering, and reading, and journaling, and ideas start to percolate. I should write about this, I think, and soon sentences are composing themselves in my head. And then, new ideas arrive, for new pieces of writing, and I get to a place where I have to sit down and start writing.

Alone2

I’ve been thinking about silence and solitude as I’ve been reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Why, you might ask, would a self-described extrovert pick up such a book?  I can be the girl in the book’s title who can’t stop talking. But I’m also somebody who needs quiet to find balance in my life and to access my creativity.

Alone3Nonetheless, it came as a surprise to discover that I might not be quite the extrovert I’d always imagined.  Yes, I can be right in the middle of it at a party, and I will probably never learn to think before I speak, and nobody has ever called me soft-spoken. But I love the act of writing, and I love expressing myself through writing. And I have my hermit tendencies, embracing long stretches of alone time. Susan Cain calls people like me “ambiverts.”

SanddollarAnd all of this got me wondering about my fellow bloggers. At once we choose to express ourselves through writing, and probably need a fair bit of solitude in order to get that writing done, and yet we also write as a way to generate conversation, to generate a sense of community. We may produce in silence, in solitude, but we want neither in return. Ultimately, we are looking for interaction. And many of us spend at least as much time, and often much more, buzzing around the blogosphere, visiting other blogs, conversing with other writers. We are an interesting breed.

***

Where do you fall on the introvert – extrovert scale? What is it that motivates you to keep a blog?

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About Sally

Poet, seeker, author, mom. Celebrating the beauty and mystery that surrounds us and learning to trust in the journey.
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38 Responses to On Silence and Solitude

  1. kingmidget says:

    I’ve always considered myself an introvert. Give me an intense one-on-one conversation about anything and everything as opposed to being in the “center of the party.” Every time I’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, it’s confirmed my introversion. So, why do I blog? My current blog began as my third attempt to make a go of this blogging idea. It’s lasted much longer and been more “successful” than any of my prior attempts. But what is that “success” — it has more to do with me than with my readers. I’ve been able to find a way to express my feelings on a range of topics, to share things about myself in an environment that is remarkably supportive. My youngest son expressed something last night that I find amazing. He is working on an essay that will be part of an application for a scholarship to help fund his trip to Israel this summer. He had to write about why he wants to go to Israel. He has three reasons and, in his words, the paragraph covering the second reason was the most difficult thing he’s ever had to write. He expressed amazement at people who can put their feelings into words on the paper.
    What does that all have to do with blogging? I told him that writing is about practice. But, there’s this as well. A few years ago, something happened in my personal life — actually several somethings happened. Those somethings taught me the value of communication. Open and complete communication. So, why do I blog? Two reasons. To practice the art of writing. To practice the art of communication. Feelings and thoughts.

    • I agree with you that blogging is excellent writing practice and that it builds up those writing muscles so that we can tackle an ever-widening range of topics. I hadn’t really thought before about using blogging as an avenue to accessing a more comprehensive set of communication tools. How great that your son is engaged enough to really sweat over that essay! I hope he wins the scholarship!

  2. I loved getting lost in your dreamy photos and contemplative words.
    I’m an introverted extrovert, much like you. I love to perform, and have been doing so since I was five years old. I am comfortable standing at the head of a volatile boardroom table, or at the front of a crowded auditorium. But I require quiet and solitude more than limelight. And when it happens that the balance between my introverted and extroverted selves becomes skewed to the ex, the results aren’t to my benefit.
    I enjoy blogging. I used to blog almost daily, but I discovered it was much like performing almost daily. Twice – sometimes three times – per week is plenty. It keeps me thinking outside my introvert’s by-the-book shell, and exercising my extrovert’s improvisational muscles between shows.

    • It’s interesting the way we show up in the world, isn’t it? I’m fascinated that we can, at once, enjoy the spotlight and crave solitude. What is really great is that you know what you need, and work to ensure the balance. As for your comments about blogging, I’ve never thought about it in terms of being a performance, but you’re right. It does feel a bit like that for me too. What kind of shows do you do?

      • Both musicals (fave role is Miss Hannigan in “Annie”) and straight plays (tie between Melissa in “Love Letters” and Truvy in “Steel Magnolias”). I’ll be in the musical “Damn Yankees” this summer, which will be fun. I’m reprising a role I played 20 (gulp) years ago. 🙂

      • How cool is that! Are you in rehearsals already? I performed in high school, but haven’t trodden the boards since. It is certainly an intoxicating experience.

        And, on a completely different subject, I added kale to my regular blueberry smoothie this morning, and I couldn’t taste it at all!

      • Rehearsal begin in May and the show goes up mid-July. 🙂 I’m glad to know that about kale. I love it as a vegetable – on my plate. Now I’ll consider being adventurous and add it to a smoothie. I love smoothies. 🙂 Thanks much!

  3. I’m reading the same book!

    • Too funny! (And I would have put you into the extrovert camp). What are you learning?

      • Biggest take away is to be self aware that pretending to be extroverted drains my batteries, as opposed to most people whose batteries are recharged by it.

        Ditto, you seem extroverted to me. What are your take aways?

      • I reached much the same conclusion as you: that I have to honour my inner introvert from time to time. This is day three for me with few social commitments and time to enjoy my solitude, and I am completely blissed out!

        I think it’s especially important to remember when you’re dating. When I was online dating, I often felt exhausted by the effort of putting myself out there, not only meeting people, but also responding to messages. I used to have to take regular breaks and shut down my profile.

        (And on a completely different note, I sent a link for the dating spreadsheet story to my girlfriend. She and I spent a very happy coffee date last year coming up with much the same idea. Her response: “Clearly the people who are upset about this have never dated online before!”)

      • Hey–last night I searched your blog to try to find your spreadsheet post. I couldn’t find it…Have you considered adding the search widget for your fans?

      • Ask and your wish shall be granted. The search widget is now up.
        And here’s the link to the post

      • Excellent service here at the Deliberately Delicious blog!

        Thanks.

  4. Well, odd as it might seem, I certainly don’t see myself as an extrovert, but very much enjoy writing and importantly, reading what others are doing.

    It is a community…just different to other communities…

    • I would definitely have pegged you as an extrovert, Baz, and yet when I think about it, so much of what you do – climbing, rock climbing, kayaking, not to mention blogging – is at heart solitary and requires great focus.

  5. babedarla says:

    I’m probably like you, an “ambivert”. I was shy as could be as a child, but never wanted to live that way, so I worked on it…though, I must admit, as shy as I was, I never had problems speaking up in class. Nowadays, I don’t consider myself shy at all, and, while I don’t especially like being the center of attention, I LOVE reading my work out loud. Blogging started out as an outlet for my writing, but then I met so many great people in the blogosphere, that it became about community as well.

  6. heysugarsugar says:

    Totally agree Sally, I have spent the last 4 months holed up in my house all winter, rarely seeing friends, rarely going out…only to walk my dig in the woods or on the beach. I have had to be forced to go to town grocery shopping! I love the solitude of being alone and hibernating, I too am very happy in my own company and have not looked for others ( apart from my family) and I like it when they give me peace too! lol…next week I re open my Tearoom and bistro for the start of the spring summer season from next monday till the 1st of Nov, I will work 7 days a week, and during any given school holiday period ( easter, whitson, 7 weeks summer, bank holidays) I will work 18 hrs a day. I dont see sunsets, I do sit in my garden, I am rarely home.I become the hostess with the mostess, surrounded by people all the time…constantly. so I guess by the winter I am craving solitude and peace. The blogworld is quiet time, a time to open my mind to other peoples thoughts and to express my own freely. xxx

    • Hi Ceri, it sounds like things will get crazy in your life very, very soon. How smart of you to close the teahouse in the winter so that you can recuperate! Interesting that you use the word “hibernate.” I have been accused of doing exactly the same thing 🙂

      • heysugarsugar says:

        The village is seasonal,, it dies in the winter we have no choice but to close..everyone does. Becomes a ghost town x

      • At least it gives you a break 🙂

      • heysugarsugar says:

        Yeah thank god! by August I’m twitching, my sept im really acting oddly, by October I’m climbing the walls and Novemeber comes and I run for the hills quickly! funny its my own business but 7 days a week no days off for 8 mths, its like a personal prison. things we do to pay the mortgage huh? 🙂 think Im on a hormonal moaning rant this past week”

  7. heysugarsugar says:

    dig in the woods?????? I meant walk in the woods with my DOG ! bloody touchscreen !

  8. I’s nice to know there’s another one like me out there 🙂 to know we even have a name, ambivert! It’s pleasant to be able to sum up in one word our intricate personality, thanks!

  9. Seb says:

    I don’t enjoy writing anymore and I even less enjoy the idea of sharing it, but I do like being around clever people, which is why I tend to hang around blogs and just occasionally post some tommyrot as a kind of third class ticket to the Clever People’s Ball!

  10. amb says:

    I’m an “extroverted introvert” I think – I’ll chat with anybody, but I need time to myself to recharge my batteries at the end of the day. I think that’s a big part of what drew me to blogging, because it allows me to “have company” and be curled up on the couch in my pajama pants at the same time! Great post and pictures as usual 🙂

  11. It is fascinating, because I often get a feel of peace and solitude from your blog. You strike me as being very well balanced. I love Susan Cain’s book, and as you know, I’m on the extreme end of introvert… I love interacting on-line. But there are days even that is too much, and I find I can’t keep up with it in the way that others seem to. We’re all different. At the end of the day, we have to go with the balance that is right for us.

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