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I've been thinking about community and writing (and other artforms) lately, as I recently wrote an article about Flannery O'Connor's artistic community. People often think of her out in the middle of nowhere, writing away at Andalusia in Milledgeville, and it's true that her solitude (and daily structure of mass and her mother's providing cooking and cleaning and a house) allowed her to work regularly. However, she had quite a network of friends and fellow writers--before her diagnosis with lupus, she lived with Robert and Sally Fitzgerald in a set-up similar to what you describe. She lived and worked in their garage apartment in exchange for looking after their children. They would all have dinner together. As Robert was working on a translation of Oedipus at the time, their discussions of their work over dinner crept into O'Connor's work--you can see the Oedipus themes in Wise Blood, that she was writing at the time.

Something I'm writing about right now is how often women are a part of the invisible infrastructure necessary for art to happen (in music scenes, especially. Bookers, photographers, fans, office workers--these are often the necessary behind-the-scenes roles often filled by women). But I'm also realizing that a feeling of community is also something that I crave. But I want a balance between solitude for creation and connection with others involved in creation. (In fact, the words I chose for this year are creation and community.)

(Thank you for such a thought-provoking post!)

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I'm so glad to have found your newsletter, Anne! I think we have very similar interests in our research and writing studies. Looking forward to learning more about your work (and your travels :)

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Thank you, Kate! I look forward to learning more about your work as well. I love the title of your newsletter!

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Thanks! Great to connect :)

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Oct 2, 2023Liked by Anne Boyd Rioux

I love all your letters! 😍 Mom

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Aww, thanks Mom!

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Really enjoying your newsletter! I spend gobs and gobs of time alone nowadays, but I paid for this luxury with 25+ years of homeschooling my kids. Now that the youngest two are in college, I find I don’t want to leave the house or see anyone. I’m a self published novelist, I’ve done some online graduate courses and I have a daily online writing group, and I also study Japanese to prepare to eventually go to Japan to do research for a future novel. During all those years of homeschooling I wrote absolutely nothing after having attempted it when the kids were babies. Basically this is my season to write. I couldn’t have done it any earlier. I think you’re going to hit on the right recipe because you’re doing the right things, asking the right questions.

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Hi Maya--I like how you put this--it's "your season to write." I feel that way as well. I'll find my way there eventually. It's nice to hear about your experience and receive your encouragement! :) Thank you so much for writing!

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Mar 11, 2023Liked by Anne Boyd Rioux

You are an amazing woman

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Aww, thanks Vicky. :)

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Mar 10, 2023Liked by Anne Boyd Rioux

Welcome to Inverness! The most beautiful city in the world 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

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Thank you, Martha! I look forward to seeing Fiona and Graeme soon!

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This is great! You asked if I lived in Inverness. I wish I did! I live in NH, but grew up in Harvard, MA, home of Fruitlands!

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Sorry, yeah I asked if you lived here before I made the connection. Thank you again for connecting us. I'll be seeing Fiona and Graehme on Friday. :)

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Oh, I’m so happy to hear this, you will love them. They have hearts of gold!

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I had a lovely day today with Fiona and Graehme! Thank you again for connecting us. It was amazing to spend the day with them and learn about the region's history and its present!

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I am so happy about that! They are the best❤️

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Oh, so very much to think about here. I admire your candor. I have had similar experiences when longing for deep solitude (because I didn't have it), and when it came, I was a little lost. But not for long. When you experience it on a sustained basis, a new rhythm emerges, and you soon find you can't be without it. You've been traveling, so you aren't really grounded in space the way you would be if "at home", I presume. If Maslow had it right, physiological and safety needs come before love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Whatever the case, you are certainly following Rilke's advice when he told his young poet to live the questions. "You are so young; you stand before beginnings...have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your heart." You know the rest. What an exciting, if at times unsettling, adventure you are having!

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Thank you, Nancy! I don't feel so young, but thank you for the Rilke quote! Or, I should say, that I sometimes feel quite young, like I'm starting over again like twenty-something. But other times I remember that my body needs a lot more rest and recuperation and that lives don't go on forever. I am glad, though, that I have the health and strength to do this now. But I do yearn for the grounding in space, as you put it. That will come. Thank you for sharing your insights. They are lovely to hear!

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Mar 10, 2023Liked by Anne Boyd Rioux

Anne, longtime reader, first-time commenter here. This really spoke to me and I'm so grateful to you for writing it. I wonder if the balance of feeling anchored vs. free is ever quite right when a woman wants to write (but then again, my kids are young and my parents are frail, so I am always grasping at solitude and space). Thanks for writing this! Honestly wish it were the start of a whole book on the topic.

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Hi Stephanie--Thanks for reading--and commenting! There certainly is a lot more I could say about the topic. Writing this brought up so many layers of thoughts and emotions that haven't exhausted themselves. I like how you put the problem, and I'd like to think the balance is achievable. Some women appear to have found the right balance for themselves (that is something I want to explore more). But with young kids and ailing parents, it certainly would be difficult. I hope that you are able to grab at least short periods of solituude, which are so important!

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