I recently finished True Detective Season Two, and while I won’t spoil it for you, I know I was disappointed. In looking for a reason or cause for my dissatisfaction, I came across an article that suggests that the writer, Nick Pizzolatto was influenced by the feedback and criticism of season one of the series. *In creating the second season, he had to live up to the expectations of season one (which is largely acclaimed) and yet create something new and different. While this might not be the type of show you like, the point is simple – the criticism of the past haunts what you create now. In many ways, this is an intrusion of the solitude that we are talking about.
Are we, as writers aspiring to write a better and better novel? Or is the idea to write new and different stories? Telling different stories is better than telling a better story – isn’t it? If we are telling stories based on the characters and the story they represent — then we must accept that this isn’t a better story than the previous, but just that it is different. Some of the concerns with my writing are just this issue, that I want to tell a variety of stories, not optimize my ability. Everything we write makes us better writers, but it doesn’t make the stories that we tell better. That is where we need selective solitude – the ability to define truth in our art and in our stories. That isn’t to say we are writing a true story, but that we are creating something that is in line with how we see ourselves in the world. That is close to a truth – to write something that is a direct line to our own vision of the world. That being said, it is very difficult to write with the voices of our harshest critics in our ears. It is very difficult to write with confidence when we feel like we are under scrutiny. And that is where writers tend to seek seclusion in an artistic sense. It is better to try something and fail (alone) than be surrounded by people who will judge them and criticism them while they are still thinking through ideas and connections. It might be worth noting that it is easy for a writer selling books – to disappear for three months to write, but it is a bit more complex for people with a nine-to-five job to disappear from the world and start a novel.
In the end, we have to find our motivation and our space to write. And sometimes, that comes by way of an hour, an evening, or a few days. Sometimes, that means writing a thesis for an MFA degree. Sometimes, it means shutting down all those things that speak out against you. It means finding selective solitude. Not only does it mean using your ability to create selective solitude, but it means using this place as an important tool in writing and thinking. Selective solitude is just as important as plot, character, and your lyrical poetry. It is the executive function that opens the door for creativity. It is there you will go back to what is most important to you: words, images, stories, and characters that are waiting to take their place on the page.
*It should be noted that True Detectives also starts with new characters and stories every season. We aren’t stuck with old stories and connections that don’t make sense. They are free to begin again.