Time, Solitude, and Writing

The other day I met a teacher who told me that she would take a year off to write a book. Otherwise, she added, I will never find the time to fulfill my dream.

A pang of envy hit me and dream-like visions popped to my mind. Waking up at the crack of dawn, with no one keeping me away from a long day of productive writing. A pot of steaming tea and my laptop for only companions while my fingers, moved by feverish and unrivaled inspiration, would hit the keyboard.

Do you really think it works like that?

I tried to hush the realistic thoughts that, in the back of my head, told me of another story.

Does your writing really get easier, more enjoyable and, more importantly, better when you have a lot of free time and solitude?

Annoyed to be hauled away from my fantasyland I wished the best to the teacher.

But as soon as she walked away I re-entered fantasyland.

A secluded lake cabin with a canoe moored at the dock, loons waking me at sunup with their melancholic song, and unmatched sunsets painting the sky and water in Impressionist-like brushstrokes. Perfect setting for a writer.

You got that in the summer, remember? Has your creativity benefited from this luxury?

Shut up! I have done a lot of work at the lake. In fact, yearlong I ache to write at the lake where my family has a cabin.


My realistic me had a valid point.


Regardless of the place – a bungalow, a condominium, a city or a country home, I always found the time to write when my four children were all living under the same roof. I was taking care of them and the house, working part time from home and also teaching occasional French classes, and although I was often overwhelmed and sometimes tired, there was an edge inside me that pulled the best out of me.

My writing wasn’t good at all, and I didn’t publish anything. But with little kids in school I found myself in a perfect position to learn as well. Those were crazy years in terms of work but they were packed with eagerness and excitement. They led to the acquisition of a new language and culture and to better writing and to publication.

Years later, with my children leaving home, one after another, to attend college, I should relish the time their absence offers me. And I do – sorry, my beloved children. But I am also very much aware that the idea of having more free time doesn’t always lead to better writing and certainly not to increased productivity. In fact, more time can equal to more laziness.


The everyday pressure can kill creativity if we reach exhaustion. But limited time triggers stress, which has positive effects as long as we don’t overdose.

A few days ago the teacher decided that she would not take a year off to write but instead transition to a part time teaching job.

I applauded her decision. For someone who had been working away from home for almost twenty years, limitless time could have been overwhelming.

As for myself, I still envision the solitude – tea included – and will always look forward to the lake, the canoe, and the loons.

But I know that lack of time and complete solitude are not what keep me away from writing. Fear of the challenge, of the opinion of others, and the rejection of agents and editors are what prevent me from writing.

That and laziness.


Sometimes all I need is some time – not too much – and solitude – my honest thoughts – to move on to the next page.



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