The gift of an empty house

Sometimes it’s sad when everyone leaves but sometimes it’s just what you need.  It’s not always possible to go away to write, on a course or retreat or holiday.  Even if you can afford it, even if it’s free or subsidised, it’s just not always possible – for many reasons, commitments, time or ability constraints – to leave your home and set up camp somewhere with nothing to do but attend to your notebooks.  Last week, for four whole days, I had the house to myself, my family all away doing their own thing. I got a lot done.  Not so much new work but a chance to sit with newish poems and give them some careful attention, free of all distractions.

Perhaps it was simply because the timing was right for me, for once.  It’s not that I don’t already have plenty of free time.  This year, I’ve had a pretty clear calendar and many opportunities to write and I have been accumulating poems but in a rather messy fashion.  But, recently, we’ve had more than the usual amount of admin to do, fetching and carrying people and belongings, family stuff, and my need to be alone has been growing, building a kind of tension that put the brakes on my creativity. Somehow, knowing I wasn’t alone in the house, even if Andrew was at the bottom of our garden in his office, interfered with my work-flow.  An uncluttered four days alone has meant that I’ve taken a clear-headed look at what I’m writing, organised poems into folders on my computer, even put together a submission to a magazine. It feels like a massive relief.


Of course, I can’t banish my family from their home forever! And, frequently, I do good work by closing the door to my writing room and putting my head down.  But this week, the silence and isolation was an absolute gift and I’m grateful and glad of it.

5 thoughts on “The gift of an empty house”

  1. I really appreciate this post, Josephine. I’ve been dreading the time, in a couple of weeks, when my partner, children and best friend are all (unavoidably) away at the same time. I’ve lined up several things to do, friends to see, plus extra library work, but this post has made me start to view the time I’ll have in a different light. I’m going to make some writing plans too, knowing that I’ll have the time to accomplish them. I’m hoping that this will give me a real sense of satisfaction that the free time hasn’t been frittered away. Best, Sarah x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Josephine. I’ve reached the stage where my children are still at home in the evenings (after work) but I often find I have too much time during the day. (I’m separated so no one down in the shed!) To create useful focussed creativity, I have to organise trips out, exercise, gardening and (most importantly) to see friends. A time of change after all the busyness of bringing up a family…
    And your house look lovely by the way, Josephine.
    All the best, Ali x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ali. Yes, I meant to say that it is all about balance (isn’t everything?) and it’s time alone and time being busy that works best. I think that, sometimes, a time of *not* being able to write (as long as it’s not because of illness or pain) can make the freedom (when it comes) of being able to write more productive. One of my children is at uni now, the other about to leave (results permitting) and husband is often away. There could well be a time when everyone’s back so I am trying to write when I have time. All the other things, gardening, exercising, meeting friends, reading, attending readings, experiencing nature and culture are very important as well, of course. J x


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