Journal of a Solitude

May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude was first published in 1973. She had written memoirs previously, but turned to journal writing in a quest for “a more immediate, less controlled record of life.”

Journal of a Solitude:

September 15th

Begin here. It is raining. I look out on the maple, where few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself, and to the rain ticking gently against the windows. I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my ‘real’ life again at last. That’s what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone here and the house and I resume old conversations

May Sarton, The Art of Poetry No. 32 Interviewed by Karen Saum

INTERVIEWER: How was it that you began to write the journals?

SARTON: I wrote the first one, Journal of a Solitude, as an exercise to handle a serious depression and it worked quite well. I did have publication in mind. It wasn’t written just for me. I think it’s part of the discipline. It keeps you on your toes stylistically and prevents too much self-pity, knowing that it’s going to be read and that it will provide a certain standard for other people who are living isolated lives and who are depressed. If you just indulge in nothing but moaning, it wouldn’t be a good journal for others to read. I also found that by keeping a journal I was looking at things in a new way because I would think, “That—good! That will be great in the journal.” So it took me out of myself, out of the depression to some extent. This happened again with Recovering.

may-sarton

INTERVIEWER: Everyone wants to know about a writer’s work habits . . .

SARTON: I do all my work before eleven in the morning. That’s why I get up so early. Around five.

INTERVIEWER: Have you pretty much stuck to the same kind of discipline over the years?

SARTON: Yes, I have. That I got from my father. I think the great thing he gave me was an example of what steady work, disciplined work, can finally produce. In not waiting for “the moment,” you know, but saying: “I’m going to write every day for two or three hours.”


18 thoughts on “Journal of a Solitude

      1. “The House By The Sea” comes to mind first. So honest and raw. Perhaps “Faithful Are The Wounds” and “The Small Room”…very hard to choose.

      1. House by the Sea is wonderful! I agree!…and her late books on being elderly, they show such a clear perspective. Of those, I think I liked “At Seventy” the best.

  1. I’ve read nothing by her but agree with what she says. I think I will have to borrow some of her books from the library. Any suggestions on where to start?

    1. You know; I don’t even remember how this book came into my belonging – but it is fabulous, and you should read it! It’s my first Sarton, I will read her other journals too, some say this is the best one – I have yet to know …

      🙂

    2. ps: Helen says: “The House By The Sea” comes to mind first. So honest and raw. Perhaps “Faithful Are The Wounds” and “The Small Room”…very hard to choose.
      🙂

  2. good to see that quote. have enjoyed the journal of a solitude a lot too… not sure but if i recall correctly there was another such diary volume? since i read the solitude i steadily accumulated her books and maybe tonight is the time to read another one. i read the small room but prefer the solitude….

    1. Maybe it was in you writing I first learned about Sarton? From what I see in ‘Journal of a Solitude’ this is the kind of writing one can read & reread.

      🙂

  3. Loved finding more Sarton here–and from the comments I should take another look at House by the Sea. Also I like her fiction too–but Journal of a Solitude is my favorite. I didn’t know that she had written it to get herself out of depression.

  4. Sigrun… this so speaks to my urge to enter the world of blogging… to account for my daily thoughts knowing that others might read them… to write my way out of a pit of despair… Thank you… for this encourages me to continue… to persevere… to cultivate a discipline… 🙂

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