“Solitude”: The Worst Thing

This perception of writers seems all too common…

[From Instagram.]

…but I have found it is just NOT true.

If I might clarify that further. It is certainly not true for those writers who purport to have something original actually to try to say. Experiences and interactions are needed to underscore good original fiction, which means an author cannot just sit for decades in front of a PC… alone.

[The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Photo by me, 2021.]

Having played “Jay Gatsby” in the 1974 The Great Gatsby film that was based on the novel of the same name, thinking he was being complimentary Robert Redford reportedly told F. Scott Fitzgerald’s daughter that he was proud to be playing a character based on her dad. She said that her dad actually did not see himself as “Gatsby.” If anyone, she explained, he saw himself more as “Nick Carraway – the novel’s first-person narrator, who is looking on at the rich largely from the outside.

By 1925 Fitzgerald had interacted with so many who were like “Gatsby’s friends,” he knew their world all too well; and his other books were all very similar in coming from that perspective. Fitzgerald’s contemporary Ernest Hemingway’s novels also often stemmed from within his own life experiences. A century and some before, Jane Austen wrote of life among the English gentry that she also knew all too well. More recently Truman Capote once joked that the reason he went to parties was to find new material. The list could go on and on.

Closer to personal home, my uncle was always, I felt, LISTENING. In conversation, cleverly he rarely let you get away with simply a “Yes” or “No”; you usually found you had to explain yourself in at times maddening detail. He seemed on the perpetual lookout for story stuff he could use.

[National Assembly building, Paris, France, 1994. Photo by me.]

A writer cannot be a hermit. They need to socialize, and even to “travel” – and in that I don’t mean necessarily Los Angeles, or London, or Paris, or Tokyo, etc.; it may be only walking, say, into the local town or city center. I detect that too many people who want to write seem to think they can do so to “hide” from the world, when in reality a writer has (or at least had) to be out amongst PEOPLE and PLACES in order to live enough in order to come up with original stuff about which to write.

2020-21 and our “lockdowns” notwithstanding (as none of us were supposed to be going anywhere or socializing), the bottom line is if you almost never leave your house, as a writer you are probably best-suited to write about… well, life… in never leaving your house. LOL!

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂

2 thoughts on ““Solitude”: The Worst Thing

  1. I definitely always wonder how much in-person research is necessary to pull off a really good story in a place I may not be able to gain personal experience in… I’ve hoped to fill in some gaps with book research and reading others’ first person perspectives. Inevitably, even in vastly different circumstances, my people and conversations still seem to come back to those I’ve known and discussions I’ve witnessed. Good points!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is not an exact science, of course. I just like to try to follow the rule of staying within what I think I know fairly well and not just making stuff up – because I know readers can sniff out phoniness pretty quick. So I won’t write about the intricacies of, say, deep sea diving or sky diving because I have done neither; but I would research them in depth remotely if I feel I have to. I think that what matters more than mechanics is human knowledge, and that we can only get from other humans. If we don’t want to produce cardboard stories we need I feel to populate them with three dimensional people and places and the best way to do that is simply to get to know people and pertinent places (insofar as possible).😊

      Liked by 1 person

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