My daily commute to work takes about three seconds (okay, 11 seconds, if you count the journey from my kitchen for breakfast to my room with my office desk.) Most days, in typical Flannery O'Conner fashion, I do my writing in the silence and solitude of my room.
Some days I splurge. I start the day with 8 a.m. Mass (also in Flannery O'Conner fashion) at a charming, little historic church named after St. Peter. Then I head downtown to an aroma-filled coffee shop, seeping with character. I settle into a nook and set up my laptop on a table, lit by a glowing lamp. Cozy, antique furniture adorns the rest of the place, and the walls are decorated with covers of old LIFE magazines - framed next to their matching murals on the wall. The faces of Mark Twain, John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Native American chiefs smile from the walls at me. Smells of bakery waft through the air from the warm ovens. Service comes right to my table, delivering delicious hot chai tea or steamed eggnog and a bagel. Then I write. What could be better?
Listening to the murmur of conversations and people enjoying each others' company warms my spirits and is a welcome hustle and bustle from the loneliness and solitude so prevalent in the writer’s life.
“Talent is nurtured in solitude, but character in the throws of the world,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The writer must find a balance between the contemplative life and the active life, achieving the perfect balance between what Benjamin Franklin said, “Write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”
Ultimately, we as artists must seek to be contemplatives in the heart of the world. The veins run in, past, and through us, carrying everything of the world throughout the body, while we try to make sense of it and relate the vision we see to others. Writing is about observing the intricacies of the human experience and illuminating the things seen and unseen, the mysteries hidden and revealed.
Writing is a mystery. Mysteries, like a sunset or newborn life are best contemplated in silence. So, too, the act of writing best takes place in silence. These luxuries we grant ourselves remind us of the joyous experience it is to write. They remind us of the world going on outside of our heads, widening our imagination’s horizons and splashing color on the landscape of our work. It is good. It is very good.
The friendly hostess is intrigued by the fact I’m a writer. “Your work must be so much fun and interesting!” she exclaims. She is fascinated by the “writer’s life,” reminding me, too, that yes, this is an exciting life despite bouts of loneliness. It is an inspiring life, a mysterious life, an old-fashioned life, a simple life.
Treat yourself today to something special, something out of the ordinary. Then rediscover joy again in your work and in your life.