Some writers dream of solitude: a Thoreauvian cabin in which to spend their hours writing; a windswept beach on which to walk alone as they let ideas percolate.
I know better: at least for me, it is the company of others and not the silence of aloneness that energizes me and fuels my creativity.
And this is fortuitous, because a solitary cabin on a windswept beach is not a place I am likely to find myself any time soon. But last night, feeling refreshed from the weekend and excited about a new work week beginning, I was struck by all the different constellations of people who had peppered my entire weekend, from start to finish.
On Friday evening, I went to a small gathering at a friend’s house: there I visited with four or five women whom I know but haven’t spent nearly enough time with lately. On Saturday afternoon, I walked for an hour with my friends Jane and Donna. On Saturday evening, one of Tim’s friends came over, and the kids and I played Parcheesi out on the screen porch long after dark.
On Sunday morning, the gathering I was in the midst of had an average age of about nine: I taught the grades 3-5 Sunday school class, and struggled to answer their provocative questions about everything from whether to use “He” or “She” when talking about God (as with so many other aspects of Unitarian Universalism, I told them, you should use whichever one is in accordance with your beliefs, or perhaps neither) to why in Biblical times animals – such as the Garden of Eden’s serpent – talked to people and today they generally do not.
On Sunday afternoon, Holly and my mother and I attended an open studios event at a large arts complex in Maynard; dozens of artists took time to talk with us about their work, which ranged from painting to jewelry making to pottery to metal crafting. In the evening, my parents came over for dinner, and as we once again sat out on the screen porch – it was an unseasonably warm, humid weekend – my father told me a story I’d never heard before about a time during his teenage years when his boat ran out of gas and he spend the night lost in the woods.
While I can’t right now say how any of these encounters will turn into a specific piece of writing, I know it’s all mingling – or perhaps composting -- somewhere in the back of my brain. By the end of the weekend, I was struck by just how lucky I am to have so many people around me so much of the time: children, adults, friends, new acquaintances. Solitude might be effective for meeting deadlines, but company is what writers need in order to generate ideas. And as much as peace and quiet sometimes seems like an unattainable goal when you are in the middle of the busy parenting years, a clamor of voices can be more artistically inspiring than any lonely windswept beach.