In the 1930s movie Grand Hotel, Greta Garbo says those words, or a variation
depending on the source. A decade later she gave up acting and disappeared into
Over the last several months, the vast majority of the world has been alone in self
or mandated isolation—and now the masses are clamoring to be with people. But
for the introverts among us, being alone hasn’t seemed so bad. As a child, I
dwelled in the shadows where I was seldom seen and my voice like a whisper
rarely heard. I preferred the back rows, had a permanent seat among the
wallflowers, and was content to watch life go by from the sidelines. While I
wasn’t averse to being with others, I simply gained my energy from within.
As a writer, and now an author, I’ve been forced to leave that quiet shell to
promote and market my self and my work. Speaking to colleagues and readers one
on one is comfortable. I now raise my hand at conferences to ask questions. I’ve
even amazed myself by giving talks to moderately sized groups. But writing for
me is a solitary practice. Workshops and social gatherings where I am asked to
spontaneously put my thoughts on paper are difficult. I need time to reflect and
begin the process according to my own clock.
But is writing in isolation the best way to become a successful, or at least a
productive writer? Bouncing ideas off others, accessing their wisdom and
experiences, seeing other perspectives can be a very useful way to jumpstart a
project or get past writer’s block. Striking up conversations at gatherings, people
watching at airports, eavesdropping in a crowd are all ways to generate characters,
pick up plot lines, and scope out dialogue. While the internet provides vast
amounts of information when researching settings, details, background and more,
there’s nothing like being there or a face to face encounter to pick up the personal
and emotional tone that will make a story come alive.
But did George Lucas actually walk into a bar and do shots with the creatures who
populated his Mos Eisley Cantina? No, they were the products of his (or other
writer’s) imagination, and unless your stories only deal with real incidents from
life, you have to make stuff up. And those ideas, at least for me, come when I’m
alone—in the middle of the night, on a solitary walk, hunkered over my keyboard.
It’s there I can say dialogue out loud like no one is listening, or wildly gesticulate a
scene like no one is watching, or cry, laugh, scream, or get all hot and bothered like
I’m living my story.
I sometimes fantasize about renting a pied-à-terre in Paris, a cabin in the woods, a
room at a Motel Six, even a cot at a monastery—somewhere I could hole up and
write for hours, no distractions. But like writers in films who grow bored or
frustrated while penning their masterpiece in seclusion, no doubt I’d end up going
out for coffee or wine, meet up with a local, and never put a word on the page.
Diana is a Baby Boomer, diehard Beatles fan, and now an Author on Amazon.