Writing: A Hermit’s Journey

If my life in books counted off the page, I could boast quite a social life. My diverse bibliodiet of fact and fiction includes Pulitzers I study, tracing the contours of the words for clues to their savoir-faire. Best thing is when I fall in, pestled upon a page of genius. I feel ridiculous. Don’t try to fool me into thinking it’s doable. High art is not five feet three. Art at its best shows me the by-ways behind the crags. It cuts and bruises. In The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr shares some questions she asks to “help students diagnose their own blind spots” ~

1. What do people usually like and dislike about you? You should reflect both aspects in your pages.
2. How do you want to be perceived, and in what ways have you ever been false or posed as other than who you are?

[Her answers]
1. My friends usually like me because I’m tenderhearted, blunt, salty, and curious. I’m super loyal, and I laugh loud.
2. People don’t like me because I’m emotionally intense and often cross boundaries….Small talk at parties bores me senseless…I’m a little bit of a misanthrope. I cancel lunch dates because I’m working.

She believes we are to bring to the page the best and worst of ourself, that is, our full and authentic self. Yes, I think you see me in clear color and dimensions, in fact more than the people in my life, at least those outside my family, do. One tempers into social roles and expectations, especially by middle age. These socks have to match. I also feel muted in the rituals we call socializing, not able to talk books or art in the circles that motherhood have circumscribed for me when I’m happier in company with the immortal dead and fellow hermits in the cave of their mind. When the tea party is over, I invite a wordsmith over for some wine – and days I need it, the scotch. Ah, the way good prose jolts, and in its beautiful ache. I want to drive under the influence – and once I’ve stepped out into fresh air, too start climbing.


81 thoughts on “Writing: A Hermit’s Journey

  1. Misty mountains and out of focus trees. Peaks to climb. Canyons to drop into. The inevitable highs and the lows. Once clear views; not so much. But we have words, D. That hasn’t changed. –Curt

  2. That was an apt title and it reflects my state of mind for some time now. When you mention those two questions that Karr poses to her students, it makes me rather contemplative, especially the second. How do I want to be perceived – that gives me food for thought. Have you arrived at a suitable/not-so-suitable answer?

    • Your direct asking makes me think about it more than Mary did. I never wanted to be perceived as anything out here as I stepped forth with my words. Neither have I posed, though looking back on my earliest posts, I have seen I was a bit more stiff – a result of some uncertainty with this whole blogging business. Blogging has been the greatest gift to me these past few years. As I’ve grown in it – and I mean the journey I wrote of, not the numbers – I have found deeper freedom to enjoy all the parts of my multiple personality. LOL. So how I am received is up to you all – I have given no thought to it. I just keep to the truth of whatever it is I happen to be writing and all the people I am. =)

      I also didn’t think too much in response to her questions when I saw Mary is much like me in temperament. She answered some of the questions for me.

      • I do see what you mean by the evolution of your personality in the blog itself. It is an interesting journey because I too notice the changes in mine as I write each post. As a solitary person – after the longest time I shared an evening of drinks and random conversation with a bunch of complete strangers yesterday and it felt liberating in a way – it is an outlet for my feelings. But that said, I do not think I put myself wholly out there because I write about my travelling experiences. So I have no idea how I want to be perceived.

        I must confess that I have a weakness for ‘all the people’ that make themselves known through your posts. Here’s to the journey of blogging itself. xx

      • You have every right to turn this over. Yes, your niche reason for being here can act as a wall to who YOU are. But we do get a good sense, from your expression and the comments you leave on our boards like roses. =)

  3. I’m more of a hermit than you, since I live alone and have for most of my life. I like your first line, because that would make me a very social person, but in “real life,” the opposite is true. I write to understand myself and other people. With other people, I want to project my inner self and be understood, but it rarely happens. People see what they want to see, and are quick to judge, according to their own standards. I’m generally more interested in their stories than telling my own. A good listener? To a point. Nosy? Maybe. It’s all in the spin.

    I’m indifferent to being liked or not liked, figuring it has more to do with the other person than me. I like me, most of the time, and I’m the only person I have to sleep with. I can find something to like in everyone else, too.

    Maybe Mary Karr has a point, but her questions seem shallow, all about other peoples’ perceptions. She probably wouldn’t like me much.

    • I was just thinking along that line about Mary, at least the part I extracted. It’s helpful to see where you’ve been self-conscious in the writing to correct it, not to adjust it. Life is worry enough to worry about perception even in our most precious art!

  4. Great post Holistic Wayfarer … ‘she believes we are to bring to the page the best and worst of ourself, that is, our full and authentic self’. Those words ring true. Writing in such a way helps in becoming known to one’s self and thereby having the courage or the strength of vulnerability to expose ourselves to the wider world – and not to care too much about the latter …

  5. Love this! I love the “When the tea party is over, I invite a wordsmith over for some wine..” Would love to share some wine with you over stimulating conversation!
    Yes, keep climbing!

  6. “emotionally intense and often cross boundaries”…story of my life, at least as I’ve been told by friends and family. I gave up on tea party relationships long ago, and that has left me a bit isolated in my recent years. But that’s okay. I enjoy my own thoughts, writings, and the company of select few friends and family. I like my blog, appreciate the communication there, enjoy the personal expression that remains mostly anonymous, and free.

    I like this piece, D, a lot. Thank you.

    • Given how diplomatic I feel you to be, I’m a bit surprised at the self-portrait. =) I think the versatility of blogging makes it work for so many as it allows us to modulate the intimacy, among other things. Thank you (always) for the sweet word, V.

  7. Oh, this makes me want to come over for wine! I’ll leave you the scotch:). I hear you on all of it. This has been a week where I’ve had to set calm boundaries again–and am wondering why my creative self is so clear on some things many people seem to make fuzzy. I long for those who can talk beyond the day to day, which makes me yawn more than ever . . .

  8. I’m happier in the cave of my mind and solitude with my work. I understand not talking about books or art with the circles I find myself in. How was I ever hooked up with such people? Loved this! ❀

    • Of course this is excellent, Debbie. Again, you put your finger on it. I don’t see much transparency among the women I’ve been thrown together with and, to be more precise, those who are honest don’t have depth. They’re just sweet (or dull) pie. The ones I do have it with (in my own niche of friends) are earthy, some, luminous. But yes, it is powerful when we can be real on the page. Thanks.

  9. ‘I also feel muted in the rituals we call socializing’ You just described me in this post. One, I spend a lot of time writing or TRYING to write something I’ll be happy with…writer’s block, writer’s life. Secondly, I just don’t like being around people much unless I feel I can connect with them, which is not that often πŸ˜€

  10. At a social gathering, I can imagine you must enjoy observing some of the socializing, maybe stepping in for a few comments/intense discussion.

    Just 2 wks. ago, I was at semi-bar restaurant with a friend, where there primarily women dressed sexy and casual plus guys: it felt like another world. We just went in for a light supper. A world that I never experienced hardly at all because the meat market atmosphere never felt right. I can’t hold much wine, much less scotch. And I hate beer.

    • I know. Though I’ve enjoyed nice restaurants looking decent, I never did that scene either. It’s a whole world but you know, I believe, a lonely one. And the getting ready – dressed up – takes SO LONG. I’d rather spend the time knocking out a good poem.

      I bow out of social gatherings as much as I can, though when I’m in them you wouldn’t know what an introvert I am.

  11. There is a spirituality with art many feel but have a hard time putting into words ~ yet you have this gift to do so at the drop of a hat (post) πŸ™‚ The line of yours I wrap myself around is “Art at its best shows me the by-ways behind the crags, bruises and cuts.” because artistic discovery is a never-ending journey where we see both the best and worst of ourselves. Seeing the worst is something that used to bother me when I was young, until understanding developing a mind/thought of a hermit often is a necessary and joyful path for allowing me a greater range of creativity. Ah, to sit and share a bottle of wine, scotch or perhaps even absinthe with you…that would be a treat πŸ™‚ And yes, a bottle…

    • “artistic discovery is a never-ending journey where we see both the best and worst of ourselves. ”

      While everyone is talking about what a loner they are, of course you will hold up the art I had in mind. I love how you married the artistic pursuit to the self-discovery. It is plain hard, fine art, and I’ve been scratching at it like a cat, wanting to break through its secrets, rehearsing delicious lines from Pulitzers who seem like magicians playing.

      I just finished a novel based on the historical bombing of Saint Malo (island) off the coast of France during WWII. All the Light We Cannot See by Andrew Doerr. Despite the brilliant prose, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit, not so much because of the 600+ pages in fine print but bc it was a little disjointed for me at the start and I just wasn’t in the mood. And then I learned he spent 10 yrs on it. Omg. He gave 10 years of himself to this art, I would give it my time. Of course it was worth it, a Pulitzer. Did a little digging to see something of his process, how he pieced the narrative together, what inspired him. One interesting thing was the (disjointed) voice I wasn’t crazy about, the liberality with fragmented sentences – the “white space” as he called it – came from the fatigue as a new unslept father, the space that in his mind helped make the novel work as he chipped away at it. That was something neat for me to consider.

      I appreciate how you will do the chasing for your art, Randy, literally cut those hands to climb behind the crags and capture Elinor and a different sun. =)

      • There is something about stretching yourself beyond what you thought was possible. To do something you never imagined. I think this is where the discovery of art begins. A fascinating arrival, but in a sense quite scary too because there is sacrifice involved and I do not think artists are consciously aware of this sacrifice. Anything worth doing well requires sacrifice, which is why artists can be found in every pursuit, such as with surgeons, accountants and housewives/husbands; creating something β€˜perfect’ because it is the right thing to do. The story of Andrew Doerr, putting in 10 years for his novel is beautiful. And for you to recognize this and finding the art, the beauty of his work is special as well. Appreciation of art in all forms is an appreciation for life πŸ™‚ Thank you D., wishing you well.

  12. I find myself where I write – more so than in any other forum, so it will always be a hermit’s journey to a large extent – having said that, I find it when someone makes an insightful comment on what I’ve written, or when I read something of theirs – so it isn’t quite as straightforward as that. Beautifully expressed Diana.

  13. Though I developed quite a social club for an introvert when I lived in North Carolina for 15 years, I think I was more like a counselor so they could tell their troubles to, it was all a facade so I left and move to Florida to retiree and to write. Everyone thought it was Parkinson’s causing me to leave but no, I just wanted to be left alone and write and associate with like-minded people. And with a book ΒΎ of the way completed, I think I made the right decision as I ‘m now called the Hermit… jc

  14. ‘I’m happier in company with the immortal dead and fellow hermits in the cave of their mind.’ YES!

    I find myself in social settings these days, paralyzed, with literally nothing to say. I am not sure what is happening to me, but I suppose it is the fact that I am getting older, know what I want and find that surface talk is painfully difficult to sustain. I would much rather be alone. Anyway, reading this post was like getting punched in the face, but in the best possible way.

    • You’re so funny. I didn’t mean to punch but I’m glad this spoke to you, T. Am a bit surprised you find yourself short of words socially but we do waste a lot of them – and time – both of which I guard jealously.

  15. Hello! i was struck esp by how you feel like you can’t talk books or art in the “circles that motherhood has circumscribed” for you. Reminds me of your blog’s tagline of finding your way out of motherhood while being a mother. Your thoughts on the writer’s life = the hermit’s way makes me think how often I feel isolated myself as a writer. I often wonder should I be doing more to be engaged with the world but sometimes writing does call for that burrowing. Lots to chew on here. xo

    • Hi Diahann, speak of the devil. I was thinking of you. =) I think I would venture out more and accept the invites if I felt myself getting somewhere artistically, the people and I sharpening one another. If they fizzed me. As it stands, my time away from books is flat soda. I hear the hours slipping away and I would rather talk with those who are lit by higher things and can tell of it, those I find between a cover and a spine. But not everyone who has his, her name on a book is for real. I want to learn from the best. I’ve been in love, reading, writing, reading, writing. But I am happy to see you came up for air! We need our vitamin D. πŸ˜‰

  16. I don’t drink scotch, but I’ll bring the wine, πŸ˜‰ Loved this thought-provoking post, and now I’m pondering on how I’d like to be perceived….Honestly, I simply want to be true to myself and hope that’s good enough for everyone else. Isn’t that what most or many of us desire? To be ourselves without judgement from others? Well, in a perfect world, I suppose.
    As to blogging, I’ve just returned after not having posted since January – the longest break for me. All year, I felt like I was done with blogging, that I couldn’t write another poem if my life depended on it, and here I’ve posted a few new (God Bless my Dad’s passing and the inspiration that followed), and here I am…until the next break. ❀

  17. Pingback: Absinthe ~ Sojourn with the Green Goddess | Global Sojourns Photography

  18. First of all thank you again for having liked some of my posts. That is how I came across your blog. Your words are very poweful here in that we must remain true to ourselves when we write or do any kind of artistic creation. I admire people like you who have sacrificed and are sacrificing part of their lives for their children. I was and am not meant to be a mother. I am too much of a hermit. But you are able to combine motherhood with a hermit’s journey and that is great. Love these lines: “I also feel muted in the rituals we call socializing, not able to talk books or art in the circles that motherhood have circumscribed for me. I’m happier in company with the immortal dead and fellow hermits in the cave of their mind.”

    • Guess who I’ve been thinking about? How are you, Aud?? Things can’t be terrible if life is letting you visit us. =) I hope hurricanes, earthquakes, and bullets are keeping their distance. As for the beautiful comment, I must’ve cast a spell to make you feel normal, as screwed up as I am. =)


      • Wow. Impressive. I’ve just about given up as the hapless mother of a prepubescent boy. May as well just lay down on the tracks, let the train do its job. AND I’m late to church! You should write a book on keeping all them apples up in the air. Rock on, Aud.

Leave a Reply to tippysmom2 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s