Friday, September 03, 2010


Sometimes you can't quite remember whether solitude is good or not. Single people tend to be highly defensive of the solitary life, espousing its virtues of independence and owing no-one fealty while simultaneously hating it with every fibre of their being; married types give lip service to the loss of their freedom, while at the same time desperately relieved that they no longer have to endure it.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Not just in the mundane execution, but in every other sense: you simply cannot invite another human being into the world you have created without explaining it - and the book is your attempt to explain, so until it's finished you're trapped, isolated, alone.

There's a nobility to that, of course, at least if you're a man. A woman who needs nobody and lives alone is attractive, self-possessed, a catch: a man in that situation is merely a loser or a weirdo, so he must fool himself that it is at least noble, spartan and stoically heroic. The irony of it is that a man endures this solitary nobility only because of the faint hope that somebody might actually notice, and thereby put an end to it.

Curious, isn't it? The notion of being rescued from one's lonely humdrum life is traditionally a female fantasy, yet men have exactly the same one.

Anyway, romantic solitude is not quite what I'm talking about here. Drifting off topic, sorry, Bourbon to blame, of course. It's the other, more pernicious kind, that of social solitude, of being quite alone when surrounded by fifty people you know well and get on with. Of being somehow not quite there, not quite part of it... not hated but not really wanted either, not invisible but not a desirable presence. Being, essentially, an ashtray. Someone who serves a specific purpose but is unwelcome outside of that.

Everyone goes through this once in a while, actually. I have known some incredibly brilliant, beautiful, desirable men and women, people who you could never imagine being unwelcome in any context, who once in a while feel unwanted, overlooked. It passes, for the famous and the anonymous alike. It's a weird social glitch that everybody suffers once in a while, inexplicable enough to make you wonder if it's just paranoia on your part. Maybe it is, but that changes nothing. You still feel the same way, and it's terrifying: everyone feels the scary what-if-I-never-find-a-man/woman-and-die-alone feeling once in a while, and that's assimilable, but to feel like even friends and strangers don't want you there is much worse, much more pernicious, because friends are your relief.

So what do you do in those times? You can retreat into yourself, of course, but that just makes you all the more invisible, and self-obsession is very offputting to others; you can brazen it out and hope nobody notices your weakness, but they already have, so give it up; you can disappear for a while and hope somebody notices you've gone, which frankly is a bit of a gamble since people have enough to worry about as it is; or you can just wait it out and have faith in yourself, that your worth will once again appear prevalent to those you care about.

The last one is the hardest. It requires one to be oneself, without feedback: nobody is good at that, bar the terminally egotistical.

I have a friend who writes a diary. I have not done this myself since I was a child, since my mother casually read my innermost thoughts over my shoulder and offered opinions about them as if it were a particularly poor episode of Eastenders - silly childhood experiences like that should not affect one, I know, but they do. I envy her ability to condense and pour out her thoughts, to preserve them in words, to get the measure of them, take control... I can do it in novels, to an extent, but it's not the same.

I never intended this blog to be a diary, to be a record of my feelings and thoughts... but occasionally it becomes a log of my attempts to address and explain them, a record of a dialectic. Tonight is apparently one of those times, but don't get used to it. Next week everything will be different, again.

No comments: