I’m used to doing things alone. Apparently doomed to eternal singledom (though I prefer the term “aggressive independence”) and with my friends scattered all over the country—heck, even foreign countries—I’ve been doing things by myself long before I moved 200 miles away from everything comfortable and familiar. It’s never really bothered me. As a writer, you spend a lot of time trapped inside your own head anyway. Just you and your thoughts and ideas, picking apart your emotions to figure yourself out, and many an existential crisis. >>
People often mistake solitude for loneliness—usually the people who crave constant validation from others. They hate being alone. They’re uncomfortable spending time with themselves. Those are the ones I feel sorry for—don’t you dare feel sorry for me just because you’ve spotted me flying solo in a movie theater or shopping or, like today, hanging on a park bench people-watching and enjoying the gorgeous weather.
My favorite thing to do alone, because there’s really no other way to do it, is to do what pretentious artists call “consulting your muse.” Basically … get back in touch with what inspires you. Writers need inspiration to draw from or the words just won’t flow. For me, I’ve always been inspired by precisely three things: Water, Manhattan, and thunderstorms. I’ll save the latter two for future posts.
So, I woke up earlier than I really wanted to today because my neighbors are horrid human beings. When I opened my bedroom window and got a whiff of that perfect October air, I knew that if I didn’t find a reason, any reason at all, to escape feeling boxed in by these beige walls all afternoon, I would start internally screaming within the hour. So I made myself some coffee, put on one of my favorite fuzzy sweaters, and started plotting my day. I was itching to do something outdoorsy.
There are certain times I draw the line at doing stuff by myself. I’ve gone to a film festival alone, but I would never do a concert. And all of my favorite fall activities—pumpkin-picking, haunted things, hiking—are a little less fun without at least one buddy. All I really wanted to do today, and I found myself seriously itching for it, was to go stare at some water.
I think it might be a Jersey thing? When you’re raised with the beach as your playground, you sort of develop a deep connection to the sea. I’ve felt it all my life. Ocean vs. Mountains? Ocean wins hands-down every single time. I will park my butt on the beach any time of year because it’s one of the few places I feel absolute peace. It totally recharges me. When I’m desperate, any body of water will do. The Susquehanna River flows right past my college campus and I’m pretty sure this view saved my life several times from 2006 to 2010:
Anyway, I’ve been down here almooost 2.5 months and I’m finally starting to venture out a little. Usually in the company of coworkers, but that’s fine with me. I volunteered at VegFest and took a bunch of photos. I went to Poplar Springs and, again, took a bunch of photos. I’m meeting up with a girl from that book publishing class within the next week or so just to grab coffee and chat, since we both recently relocated here. She’s from New York, so naturally I want to torture myself by talking to her about all the things I love and left behind when my career took to me to D.C. instead. But today, the few people I considered asking to accompany me on a walk through the woods were unavailable and seeing as how I’m not quite confident in my abilities to not get lost or abducted, I decided to save that quest for another time. But I still needed to see water.
There’s a shopping plaza maybe five minutes away that I got familiar with rather quickly. My family and I ate dinner there the day we came down to tour apartments, the night I moved into my apartment, and then my dad and I went back again when he came down to paint. I’ve gone to the movies there, I’ve shopped, I’ve walked around. And there’s a small lake (which probably isn’t even natural), so I knew it was a good back-up plan. I followed the walking path past the carousel, found a bench in the trees overlooking the water and sat. For about an hour. I scribbled the beginnings of this blog post in one of my abandoned reporter’s notebooks. I took some pictures. I watched moms jogging with their kids in strollers, teenagers with their noses practically glued to their phones, and some super cute dogs pass by.
I don’t do the whole writing-in-public thing as much anymore as it has a tendency to earn quite a few stares, some less welcome than others (keep walking there, Man-Bun). I guess there will just always be some people who see someone doing something alone and think there’s something sad about it. Oh well. Their problem, not mine.
On my way back to my car, I stopped in Francesca’s to browse, even though no matter how much weight I lose (and I’m down 25 pounds!), the stuff I think is cute in there will never fit me well. And then I couldn’t resist wandering the aisles at Barnes & Noble because let’s face it, the aroma of new books mixed with coffee is basically an aphrodisiac for some of us. I got home, promptly remembered I was out of booze, ran back out for a 6-pack of OctoberFest, and got back just in time to enjoy some more of that heavenly autumn air on my balcony before it got too chilly.
The point of this post got a little lost along the way, but if I could offer one piece of advice for aspiring writers (ha—one?), I’d say your first step in a long mess of strategizing and planning your every move is to find your muse. Find that place, person, activity, security blanket, whatever, that brings you back to yourself. Going through the mundane daily motions can suck the life force right outta ya, so you have to recharge your batteries every once in a while. Find something that puts the spark back in your creativity. Find your Zen. Then use it when you need it and ignore the weird stares. 😉