A new blog from the creator of The Vincent Zandri Vox about writing, traveling, and the world in the present tense.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Art of Loneliness

I spent more than three months overseas in 2012 trying to purge whatever demons or persistent memories that had lodged themselves inside my skull over the past couple of years. I went from a month in Italy, to a couple of weeks in Paris and Normandy, directly to California, back to New York, then to Egypt and back to Italy. In between were trips to other places, mostly for conferences and even a beach-side vacation in the Cape.

I recall flying back to the states a few months ago. The pilot flew directly over Cape Cod like a ship captain or pirate of yesteryear desperately seeking the Provincetown lighthouse. A much welcome beacon in the the heart of darkness.

I guess I'm always looking for that beacon in my heart of darkness. Memories are part of our business as writers. Even if some of them are somehow pleasant but unpleasant at the same time, we tend to romanticize them, and even do our best to conjur them up in our work. What were the sensations, feelings, emotions that went into something that sticks in our brain like silly putty on the wall?  How can I tap the typewriter keys to recreate it so that it's more real than when it actually happened? How do we paint the canvas so that we walk away from it for the night convincing ourselves with absolute confidence: "There, I feel better now."

Regrets are easy to cling to because we are always asking ourselves, What if I had done something different? But then, what the fuck is the point of that? You can't change your senior page in your high school yearbook. It's still there gathering dust in the attic to send chills up your spine. Pimples and all.

Every evening in Florence, Italy, following work, I walk to a small bar located in the Santa Maria Novella. On the way I pass by a boutique shop that sells women's precious underthings. There's a woman who works the shop. She's an attractive brown-eyed, brunette and she always smiles at me as I walk by. On occasion we share a "Buono sera," or "Buono nochte" but always I keep walking and she keeps working. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I stopped to talk, but I never do. Maybe that's the beauty of it all. The art of loneliness.

Why, as writers and artists, do we crave it?

I will travel thousands of miles to be alone and hate being alone. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here. Or maybe, I'm just doomed to always be searching for that beacon. But God help me if I ever find it.




  1. Is it really loneliness we crave or just solitude? There are times I want to be alone, but know that friends and loved ones are nearby and available.

  2. I think a real feeling of loneliness is sometimes, dare I say it, essential...Solitude is just being away from the noise and bothers...but loneliness is something else. Vincent Van Goph didn't cut his ear off or paint The Potato Eaters in simple solitude....

    1. I see where you are coming from, when my life got more comfortable I quit writing poetry. My prose writing has come from very different places. Some very dark and lonely, but others from very happy ideas. I can see the darkness in your work. It definitely works for you.

  3. i always found the need to conjure very sad, dark feelings to write poetry and essays ... i would cry as i typed and it was more painful at times than liberating. now i write about things that make me happy and it's very energizing and even empowering.

    i still need there to be complete quiet and solitude when writing but because i'm choosing the isolation and it has limits, i'm not lonely and there's not that ol' hole.

    not sure what i'm saying here but i feel sort of short of breath reading this.

    you're brave. and gifted.


  4. I think this essay came about because I'm reading Mailer's book on writing, "The spooky Art," in which he says something to the tune of, Beware of becoming too comfortable in all your domesticity...It will fatten you up and dull your edge.

  5. I love traveling and I need my solitude. And I think Mailer's full of shit because I write best when I am home in Dundee with my sweetie in a very quiet domestic setting. But I can't stay there all the time -- the itch to get out there and see new things always returns. Fortunately we both need our alone time. I think there's a modern taste for velcro-ing people together. We all need alone time -- some more than others. For writing, it's essential.

  6. Great post. I was made to think there was something wrong with me because i craved being alone, with being an individualist really, which has kept me from writing these 30 odd years. i agree with Kaity though. I’m alone but I don’t feel lonely bcs I’m condemming myself anymore. i hope i make sense.

  7. Well Mailer's domestic life was always pretty much a wreck Kate, even though he loved and cared very well for his family...BTW: Don't forget, Noir at the Bar!

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