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:
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
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.
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.”
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