On Living a Simple Life

Quiet paintingI believe that books are written not only on-page, but also off-page. It’s doubtful that anyone who does drugs, goes to parties often, spends hours in front of the TV, watches more movies than he reads books, does what everyone else is doing and thinks what everyone else is thinking writes good fiction.

When I decided to become a writer I made some changes in my life. Habit makes change difficult, but I have observed that changing things gets easier when you stop doing whatever it is you are doing for at least a day or two and sit still and quiet and think about your life. A warning:

‘How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing. Try to do your duty, and you’ll know right away what you amount to.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The effects of those changes can be still seen today…

I don’t carry a mobile phone with me. I had to procure one while my grandmother was dying, for emergency calls, but now that she is dead I have tucked it away in a wardrobe.

I don’t watch TV. I don’t have one in my room.

I eat only when I am hungry. I don’t eat snacks or anything else in between dinners. I also prefer vegetables to meat.

I don’t go out in the city. I am quite happy with my quiet existence, but life in a shadowy attic is not sustainable. It works for a few years if you have the right temperament, but after that it’s bad for your health, and especially for your brain. Going out and meeting new people is important for a writer, especially if you’re looking for characters and ideas for stories.

For my part, I knew what I wanted to write before I learned English and withdrew myself from the world. Also, Oliver Colors’ biography has little to do with reality, and since I live in Romania and I have more English in my attic than outside it.

I don’t spend money on unnecessary items. I buy only food, clothes, and books. I can live on a few hundreds dollars a month. Actually, I try to live on less and less each month so I can spend fewer hours working and more writing and reading. Mind you, it’s Romania I live in, not the US. Things are cheaper here.

An Observation

I don’t believe that the ‘lifestyle choices’ I’ve described are good for all writers. I’ve always been the shy and quiet and withdrawn type, so for me solitude is a kind of bliss, a silent one it’s true. I go to bed contented.

That said, when the time will come for the hatted boy to exchange his single bed for a double one, he will have to make some changes…

“Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” – Stephen King

Do you feel better when you are by yourself, or when you are with others?




51 thoughts on “On Living a Simple Life

  1. I definitely prefer to be alone, but I schedule some time with a friend who runs daycare so I get the fun elements from the kids without the work and I know the next day I can be by myself again. I love that picture.

  2. I had to make major changes when I shifted from a full-time journalism job to writing what I love. So no more shopping for anything but basic groceries. Stopped eating out completely. Forced to buy fewer books too.

  3. Its a double dged sword. By living a simple life you will have more room for thoughts. That is true as you have no ‘clutter’ to interfere with your thought processes. However, the extra room needs to be filled with something. And that can go either way as the trust you put in things that now have the room to occupy your mind is very strong. And that can lead to dependence. Just like a lot of kids are dependant these days on mobile phones.

  4. It’s tempting to become isolated when you are a writer, or artist of any kind, because most creative acts are done alone. But in order to feed the fire you have to be among people too. Becoming as simple as possible in all aspects of life helps creativity to surface faster and cleaner.

  5. One of the reasons I’m such a fan of your posts is because you give words their maximum value by offering them sparingly. In answer to your question: Depends. I feel best in the midst of those who bring out and value the best in me. I feel worst when overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness and disconnection while in the midst of others.

  6. They say that what you fear letting go of is really the thing, once set free, that allows other wonderful things in.
    Removing externals – even if you fear making that type of change- can allow space for the internal life that makes a writer more diligent and attentive to his craft.

  7. I am just happy being here and reading what all you have to say. Though at times am curious do you really live in an attic. I would miss the sunshine, rain and wind.

    1. Well, it’s not an attic in the proper sense, but I regard it so. And I often join my dear friend Oliver Colors in his attic, which is the real deal.

      I have a window you know, and admire the weather from a distance…

  8. It depends, as well, what I am writing. Sometimes I write with people around, so that I have to write a little louder; sometimes I write totally alone, so I can write the whispers I hear …

    1. I hear all kinds of sounds coming from the bathroom, especially while the reservoir with water from the toilet is filling… I think it might be a sign of schizophrenia. Or overworked imagination. 🙂

      1. Or a would-have-liked-to-be-writer who has crossed over and He’s dictating to you …. Or you need to get your bathroom checked out by a professional ! 🙂

  9. I am a shy, sensitive introvert so the fewer the people around me the more comfortable I am. At the same time, the more people around me, the more story ideas I get :). It just comes down to balancing my need for solitude with my curiosity about people.

  10. I am alone in a very rural situation, but it isn’t necessary to being productive. It is simply my preference. Alone in a crowd would be as satisfying. I have simply found that I lack the energy to sustain too many deep relationships.

  11. I feel being alone is good for writing but yeah, leaving our people alone is not justified. I love to write alone, but I compromise because I can’t see my mom trying to fill the vacuum of her day all alone.

  12. It sounds like you are able to maintain a wonderful balance in your life, that’s completely perfect just for you! I’m a wee bit envious! 🙂

  13. Hey there Vincent – I hope the attic does you well. I could do with a little more of your bliss sometimes. But living in a city (and online) makes reclusiveness a little, well, elusive 😉

  14. I’ve been trying to make changes in my habits, too. Like you, I don’t watch TV, and I rarely eat meat. I do like gummi bears, though… But mostly it’s in how I spend my time. No, I don’t watch TV (ever), but, before I can write, my entire apartment has to be clean… Silly me… I spend most of my time alone, too, Vincent. It suits me. I get my stimulus from brief trips to the market.

  15. Funny, I’m living your changed life, without making any changes…! Except, I go out. Every day. I feel much better being on fresh air and I like to observe people.

    And I think a lot. Perhaps too much. I’m trying to analyze less. Things are much more simple that way, and life seems more clear. So is my head.

    I feel better alone or around others depending on the moment or day. Meeting people gives me wings and inspires me. It’s like fuel to my engines that makes me speed up. But I also like to be alone. In silence or in noise. Most importantly to not have to say a word to no one and not be bothered. Sometimes I need my moment of me with me. It;s like taking a deep breathe before the next step. A small pause before the fast forward.

    I think it may do you well to meet more people. Even more if you don’t like to.

      1. Oh my, dear hatted boy! I haven’t forsaken you at all! I’m just really short in time lately… I post whenever I find a moment, but usually after I finish, I have no more time left for visiting my favorite blogs…

        And what about you? Haven’t seen you in a while too! 🙂

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