Posts Tagged ‘novelist’

For writer May Sarton, solitude was necessary to create and bring forth the richness within herself

January 9, 2022

May Sarton (Belgian-American, 1912-1995) was a highly respected American poet, novelist, and memoirist. Her literature encompasses themes of aging, solitude, family and romantic relationships. Self-identified as a lesbian and regarded as a feminist, she preferred that her work found a place in a broad humanitarian connection rather than within the identities she embodied.

Her memoir, Journal of a Solitude (1973) was her most popular work, and “Now I Become Myself” (Collected Poems 1930 – 1993) is one of her most beloved poems. She was also the author of numerous novels.

Literary Ladies Guide compiled a selection of Introspective quotes by May Sarton, a most thoughtful writer. They also published a review of Journal of a Solitude. The Famous People website published 64 Inspiring Quotes By May Sarton That Will Give You Lessons For Life—her reflections on life, authenticity, solitude, contentment, nature, strength, survival, education, school, life, loneliness, optimism, experience and relationships.

I remember reading these wise quotes from Journal of a Solitude:

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.

Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, As without light, nothing flowers.

I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose—to find out what I think, to know where I stand.

That last quote reminds me of Donald Hall’s description of a good writer, included in an earlier post: Writers on Writing—What Writing Means To Writers.

A good writer uses words to discover, and to bring that discovery to other people. He rewrites so that his prose is a pleasure that carries knowledge with it. That pleasure-carrying knowledge comes from self-understanding, and creates understanding in the minds of other people.

I must have time alone

The implication from these quotes is that we need a time and place to be alone to create in the dark of the unknown, shut off from distractions that divide the mind, to experience the richness of our inner world, and blossom with the light of our newly discovered self-knowledge. We write to know—to discover and understand.

Yet, like every true artist it is always a challenge to balance the personal with the social, our own needs with those of another in a relationship. In her Journal of Solitude May Sarton wrote:

There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over my encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it.

This is so true. And if we don’t express our need for solitude in a healthy manner, resentment builds up, and we find ourselves passively-aggressively taking our frustration out on those closest to us, causing pain for both parties involved. We blame others for our inability to properly balance our priorities. We lash out or fall into inertia and suffer.

However, when free to fully engage in the creative process, writing can become an ecstatic experience. This quote stood out for me, showing May Sarton’s passion for writing and how significant it was for her.

…I feel more alive when I’m writing than I do at any other time—except when I’m making love. Two things when you forget time, when nothing exists except the moment—the moment of writing, the moment of love. That perfect concentration is bliss.

AZ Quotes: May Sarton Quotes About Writing

a way of life

I’ll leave you with this final quote from May Sarton that reminds me of the bus-driving poet in Jim Jarmusch’s wonderful little film, Paterson: “poetry is first of all a way of life and only secondarily a way of writing.”

Leonard Cohen said a similar thing: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

We write to better understand our experiences, and in the process metabolize them into poems. Poetry, then, is the epiphenomenon, the ash from that creative fire burning within. See this related inspiring post: What is Poetry, where does it come from, and how does it enter into us?

a final note

And finally, enjoy this post: Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say, with links to more entires on writing. There is a beautiful excerpt on the back cover of her book, A Walk Between Heaven and Earth: A Personal Journal on Writing and the Creative Process, edited down from the original, which I also include.

Talking to paper is talking to the divine. Paper is infinitely patient. Each time you scratch on it, you trace part of yourself, and thus part of the world, and thus part of the grammar of the universe. It is a huge language, but each of us tracks his or her particular understanding of it.


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