Monday, 5 July 2010

Kein Dichtestress

I have spent a very great deal of time alone in the last week. I seem to have managed to go from the gloomy, "I-will-die-alone-and-noone-will-notice-my-adoptive-son-will-have-to-identify-my-weepette-chewed-corpse-from-dental-records (and that will be difficult because I can't remember the last time I went to the dentist)" phase to the frothingly mental but cheerful phase fairly seamlessly, so well done me. I have had lengthy conversations with both the dog and the bathroom mirror, and have started singing to myself tunelessly on the street. When I do see other people I'm a bit off-kilter, either insanely talkative or a dribbing halfwit who cannot form sentences. Often a little of both.

I am on my own partly because I am trying to write. Believe, me it's hardly Proust in a cork lined room, I have the mental rigour and impulse control of toddler and spend my time staring into space, mentally self-flagellating, scouring the cupboards for forgotten industrial confectionery and being sidetracked onto the internet. I am 30% dread, 30% defeatism, 30% ADHD and maybe, on a good day, 10% productivity. On a bad day I am 100% sure of failure, of mediocrity. There are lots of those. Thankfully, there is also lots of forgotten industrial confectionery.

Some part of me obviously believes that being alone is important, having the space to think. Everyone says so, anyway, so it must be true. I think I confidently assumed I would better at it than I am, but I probably underestimate the way fifteen years cohabitation, 8 years mothering, changes your default settings. My 'normal' has been calibrated to a fairly high level of promiscuité* so I'm all at sea with this solitude. I can't focus. I think this is why I felt I need to have more of it, to get over the strangeness. This may be a bit contrary, or indeed totally wrongheaded. Also, I may lose the ability to speak, and communicate only using a series of high pitched clicks and whistles after a few weeks. It's an experiment. WITH MY BRAIN. Sounds sensible when you put it like that, doesn't it?

(This reminds me of a dorky academic anecdote (and doubtless urban legend) my parents used to relate about a 'friend' who had dedicated his PhD to his supervisor, with the barbed inscription:

"To X, for providing me with the intellectual isolation from which true creativity stems".

Academics' jokes: rarely laugh out loud funny. Fact.)

This month is my writing month, anyway, and so it's solitary confinement. If I don't get the damn thing finished in draft by the end of July, I will be utterly, and rightly, furious with myself. To this end, I am spending the second half of the month holed up by myself in a flat in Bath, possibly without the internet (did you feel the cold chill that assailed me as I typed that? Brrrrrr). And even before I go to my pretty, Georgian prison in one of Britain's most beautiful cities, I am going to be knuckling down and working like a bastard. So posting may be light. Then again, it may not, because I am infinitely weak and pathetic and I like talking to you. But just in case, that's why.


(* After extensive discussions with the internet it appears there is no English translation of this French word, meaning 'lack of privacy'. However, M did manage to dig up this unbelievably brilliant German word, meaning "stress caused by living in too great proximity to others and having insufficient privacy". Dichtestress. It challenges all my easy clichés about the English that Germany and France should have specific words relating to the absence of sufficient privacy and that we shouldn't, but there we go).

22 comments:

katyboo1 said...

Thank god you have posted. I am sitting here chewing my finger ends off trying to find interesting things to say about the world of French polishing. So far have eaten half a box of chocolate krispie squares, smeared relaxing eye gel into my eye socket and checked your blog about every twenty minutes to see if you had something lovely to say.

Which you did.

Thank you.

Sobs into own cleavage in relief.

Jaywalker said...

Habst du dichtestress, Katy?

GENAU.

Sorry, I will stop pigdeutsching now. It's a nervous tic.

The City Road said...

Have just this weekend eliminated much dichtestress from my life. Now find that within hours I too am wondering how long exactly it would be before I was discovered, and the manner of my demise.

Lacking a weepette and with the likelihood that urban foxes would find 3 flights of stairs and a lack of keys an impediment to chewing my face off, I think I'd probably be found trapped beneath a pile of my own footwear after a shoe box malfunction.

Rilke said that the most important task in any relationship is that each protects the solitude of the other.

Eireann said...

The letter the Rilke quotation above comes from is a structuring part of my PhD thesis.

But I wanted to say that FINALLY I know the word for what it feels like for me to live with other people--or even have them around (in the house, with all their potential needs/desires/wants/talkings) while I'm working! Dichtestress. Indeed.

Anna Lisa said...

I too am about to enter solitary confinement - for an MA thesis, unfortunately, which isn't half as romantic as a book. Quite why I elected to pay £4000 to subject myself to this tedious crap is beyond me right now.

If you need someone with whom to share woeful, procrastinatory wafflings, I'm here. I've got some good stories. Well, rants, really. I ought to get a blog for that. Ahhh, catharsis...

Anonymous said...

Arghh! I am consumed with horror at the idea that you might abandon us to go into seclusion to write! However I do perfectly understand the need to reduce distractions that prevent you knuckling down to the task at hand (ahem, getting back to work now.....)

Anonymous said...

Did you just feel that bone-chilling gust of wind that blew through the room when you said TWO WEEKS with no Internet? *shudders*

What is the German word for the soul-crushing boredom with, well, everything? The word "ennui" seems woefully insufficient.

Good luck with your writing, it sounds like you've got a plan and 10 percent is better than zero!

C/Kalgon

Em said...

I want to say something meaningful and deep and helpful. But I may end up sounding like a motivational speaker - sweet cheezus. So... write and just keep writing.

And please don't leave us.

3limes said...

I often wonder how long I would survive all by myself without going mad. You are right, our default settings are changed by this point in our lives. But I do think it is important to be alone, to try, at least and it is the only way to write. Sadly the no internet rule is true. You need to be forced into an intellectual prison with lots of chocolate. Good luck and don't despair.

Anonymous said...

I know of a great cafe in Bath where you can drink nice coffee and pretend to work away at important writing while being distracted by making up stories about all the other people drinking coffee and pretending to work...

frau antje said...

Maintaining the ability to communicate, unlike producing, is easier than you think. Unless you're Selkirk, in which case you will always miss your isolation.

The Germans also profess that it is always irgendein Depp irgendwo (some idiot somewhere). Hope it's quiet in Bath.

Nellig said...

Even if you don't have any internet in your flat in Bath, please please venture out to some free WiFi spot every few days. Otherwise, the second half of July will just get too sad.

No pressure. It's not like I'm addicted to your blog, or anything. You needn't think that when you pop up in Google Reader I mentally go "Oooh!" or anything like that.

Anonymous said...

I love your target! ... But can you not have Dichtestress part-time??? And post to us in the other half??? Lets face it - first drafts are like men - rarely satisfying, and only to be considered good company when truuuly masochistically drunk ...

katyboo1 said...

Ja gnadiges fraulien.

Sarah Eccleston said...

Thank goodness, I'm not the only one. Have you read Anne Lamott's book "Bird by Bird"... she describes this and advises how to get over it... in a really funny way... it's a nice book, enjoy...

spudballoo said...

I am feeling your Dichtestress (oh God, that's sounds filthy). In 'theory' I need my alone time, I want to be alone blah blah. In reality my alone time turns in to shambolic wandering around the house picking things up and looking at them, wasting time looking at crap on internodes and wondering about stuff.

Shocking. See me after class.

Fat Controller said...

Well I think it's jolly considerate of you to choose the latter half of July to be without internet because that is exactly when I will be without it too. Not in Bath, sadly, but mostly in Exeter, which is almost as nice.

zmkc said...

'High-pitched clicks and whistles' - the Clangers are so sweet, it would be quite nice to become one of them.

On the writing task, I don't suppose advice from Sylvia Plath is always brilliant (especially when related to large kitchen applicances), but she did say something along the lines of the greatest enemy of creativity being self-doubt. So pull yourself together, woman (that is meant to come out in a jocular tone, rather than sounding like your fourth form gym teacher)

Siobhan said...

Bath could be good for solitude. I like your blog so will miss it while you are writing, but if you are writing as well as you do here it will be wonderfully worthwhile.

You also in a previous post managed to destroy my preconceived notions about Coram Fields, which I had thought would be a tightly guarded oasis with grumpy sheep (I still knew the sheep were grumpy, the glared at me from the fence). It was lovely and funny and reminded me of Bloomsbury, all of which are good things.

IsabelleAnne said...

"Dichtestress: the unpleasant result of living with dich's."

Z said...

One can blog perfectly well from an iPhone. If I can blog from my hospital bed an hour after a hip replacement, you can blog from a bath and do your writing too. it's all a matter of just doing it and not thinking too much.

I fight my solitary-bastardness. I could so easily slip into it, and it doesn't make me a better person. At the same time, I hate the bloody telephone, which always rings at the wrong time. I think that rules are the thing, Like, you can't play Spiker until you're written a page. And you can't check emails except hourly. And you can only blog when the day has brought an achievement. I make up the achievements of course, but they keep me cheerful.

Z said...

Oh sod it. I've taken out my contact lens. Spider. And any other typos are simply a test of ingenuity.