Community vs Solitude – Julie Maloney

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By Julie Maloney

When I founded Women Reading Aloud fifteen years ago with twelve women writers sitting around my dining room table, I had no idea that it would grow into an international non-profit organization. What I did know is that writers needed a supportive community where they could come together and share their writing, take workshops, and grow. I knew that the quiet of solitude necessitated the energy of community. The balance between them challenges the best of us.

Ignoring competition while honing craft lays the foundation for WRA. It’s why writers from throughout the USA, as well as Canada, Germany, Greece, Portugal, London and Australia have come together to write and listen to one another read their work. It’s the “we’re all in this together” mantra.

But how much is too much “togetherness?” How do we balance both?  I’ve found there’s an easy answer: Do what feels right. When I need solitude to write, think, write some more, and figure out that plot twist or where the line-break falls in a piece of poetry, I withdraw. I do not ask for permission or explain why I need to stay home. Don’t misunderstand. Friends are important. We need that community. We just don’t need it all the time.

I worry when I see writers floundering on social media. My advice to them is always the same — go for a walk outside. And go alone.  I love my friends but they know me well enough that when I say, “I can’t go with you,” they get it. 

I’m aware of how slippery time gets. I wonder to myself what have I done with it? Am I being productive enough? After leading a writing retreat, I need time to decompress. 

For the past few years, I’ve had the good fortune to travel with a dear friend after a WRA retreat in Greece. We both need a lot of space but we also engage in conversation for hours. We talk poetry, novels, family, art and then we eat . . . sometimes beginning with dessert and going backwards.  One day, we shopped together in Santorini. The next, she returned for a little more shopping and I stayed back on the balcony and stared out at the Aegean Sea. For the entire afternoon, I stared, I napped, and I read.  When my friend returned from her shopping trip, she handed me two slim books — gifts that were so right, I’ve read them both several times.

My community consists of thousands of writers, some dear friends who write and some who don’t . . . and then there is me. Just me.


Julie Maloney is the author of A Matter of Chance, her debut novel, published in April, 2018 (She Writes Press). She is the founder/director of Women Reading Aloud, a non-profit international organisation devoted to promoting women writers. As director of WRA, she leads writing workshops throughout the year. Julie will return to the island of Alonnisos in 2018 to lead her eighth international writers retreat in Greece. 

juliemaloney.net

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