How can a writer balance solitude and camaraderie?

Reprising a post from a year ago:
Dear Literary Ladies,
How can a writer balance the need for quiet and solitude, with the desire for camaraderie? When I’m alone, working, I feel the need for feedback; and when I’m among colleagues, talking about my work, I feel I’m seeking too much outside validation.

If you don’t keep and guard and mature your force and above all, have time and quiet to perfect your work, you will be writing things not much better than you did five years ago. You must find a quiet place near the best companions (not those who admire and wonder at everything one does, but those who know the good things with delight!).

You need reassurance—every artist does—but you need still more to feel “responsible for the state of your conscience” (your literary conscience, we can just now limit that quotation to), and you need to dream your dreams and go on to new and more shining ideals, to be aware of “the gleam” and to follow it; your vivid, exciting companionship in the office must not be your audience, you must find your own quiet center of life, and write from that to the world that holds offices, and all society, all Bohemia; the city, the country--in short, you must write to the human heart, the great consciousness that all humanity goes to make up.

Otherwise what might be strength in a writer is only crudeness, and what might be insight is only observation; sentiment falls to sentimentality—you can write about life, but never write life itself. And to write and work on this level, we must live on it—we must at least recognize it and defer to it at every step. We must be ourselves, but we must be our best selves.

—Sarah Orne Jewett, in a letter to Willa Cather, ca. 1909


Vintage Reading August 12, 2010 at 2:27 PM  

Another fascinating post. Sounds very difficult to be a good writer. Rather glad that I'm a reader!

Anonymous September 17, 2010 at 3:04 AM  


I've been checking for new posts regularly, but have had no luck. Hope you'll be posting soon. Here's a query to help you out:

Dear Literary Ladies,
It is said that inorder to master any art you must study it well. How exactly can one study writing? Does a student of literature make a good writer?

Nava Atlas September 17, 2010 at 5:03 AM  

HI Scriblerus,

Thanks for sticking with me here. I've actually not been posting because I've been so busy trying to finish up the book version of this blog, which is much more in depth (and not in the Q & A format). It's almost done, and then I can get back to posting regularly. Thanks for your question! It's a great one, and I will try to find an inspiring and wise answer from a Literary Lady!

Tracy October 29, 2010 at 8:40 AM  

I've always tried to be a writer just couldn't work hard on it especially the artistic side.=)

Meg November 10, 2010 at 8:47 PM  

Wow, I can't wait to read a book version of this blog! It would be tremendous. :)

Meg November 10, 2010 at 8:47 PM  

I can't wait to read a book version of this blog - I think it's wonderful.

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Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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