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On solitude: a writer’s discourse

Natalia Theodoridou is a Word Factory Apprentice Award Winner (2018/2019). Here she reflects on writing and solitude.

I love solitude.

One of my favourite places in the entire world is my parents’ seaside house in Siviri, Greece. The name references Siberia–because it can get very cold at night, because there are very few people there all year except in the busy summer months.

I long for those sunless winter afternoons when the sea turns to steel. I want no people then. I recoil from voices, from touch. The words come, and they need nothing but the cold sea and the gulls.

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And I abhor solitude.

My partner and I live in Devon where, outside of his colleagues, we know no-one. We are Greek, raised with the conviction that relationships build themselves around spontaneous, hours-long meetings at cafés. Here, the nearest friend to have a coffee with is three hours away.
My desk is in front of a window. When it’s sunny out, the absence of philial bodies weighs on me. It saps me of words.

Solitude and its eccentricities are context-specific.

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Solitude is to be shunned, I am told, I tell myself. Networking is a gift and a privilege. Find the organizations that allow you to discover your peers. Seek out your interlocutors, because thinking is dialogic.

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But solitude is also to be sought. It affords you the time and quiet to wrestle with the work, to measure yourself against the world.

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There is fear of missing out. Fear of ending up alone. Of shunning the world for so long that it forgets all about you.

And if that’s what the words take, does it make the casualties worth it? Isn’t the writing its own reward?

I don’t have any answers.

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Then again, how can you write about the world if you are not in the world?

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In Siviri, I am apart. But this house by the sea is no exile. Nobody forced me there to be alone. This distinction does not escape me.

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In solitude, I need bravery. To sit down with my quiet, to follow the threads of my thoughts to their ends, to figure out what I really think, where I really stand. Company is distraction. Distraction is loss; gold slipping through fingers, flowing downstream, irretrievable.

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In solitude, sometimes I forget I have a body. Sometimes I am naive enough to think that means I’m free.

Then, I find my body again in language: the muscle in the verbs, the skin in the accents, the breath in the punctuation, the bone in the hollow spaces between words.

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There is an ebb and flow to my need for solitude.

As a writer, I am tidal. I have patterns. Recognizing them takes effort. Fighting them takes foolishness.

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We, all of us (writers or not), are planets. Worlds unto ourselves, we come together, eclipse each other or light each other up, collide or orbit one another, then drift apart again.

At most, we can hope our meetings are auspicious, and, if pleasant, that they will occur again soon. That they will find us undiminished by the counsel of our solitude.

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Natalia Theodoridou is the winner of the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, a Nebula Award Finalist, the dramaturge of Adrift Performance Makers (@adriftPM), and a 2018 Word Factory Apprentice. Natalia’s work has appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, Neon, Litro, and elsewhere.

For details, visit www.natalia-theodoridou.com or follow @natalia_theodor on Twitter.