An Experiment in Failure

I’m now in the fourth week of my siesta-filled stay in Madrid, and next week is the last. Since I keep getting asked why I chose Madrid to visit (and then Athens afterward), I thought it might be worth chatting about that a little. They’re good questions! So what were my criteria? 

Well, a few times I’ve said I just closed my eyes and poked at a Google map to decide. But that’s not completely accurate. (Or accurate at all…) I actually did some research for “great places to stay in Europe for longer than a few weeks,” and Madrid and Athens rose to the top of the list. I’ve never been to either city and always wanted to visit both. Especially Athens. 

Besides visiting a place I’ve never been, however, my biggest criteria was personal isolation. I know. That doesn’t really sound like “Jason,” does it? But in a lot of ways I’m looking at this current, relatively short season of life I’ve chosen as an experiment. I’m taking time off to consider my future. And to write. And since I love spending time with people, I thought I’d choose cities where I didn’t know a soul. 

In other words, I wanted enforced solitude! I decided to stay in culturally rich, diverse and potentially inspirational places where I could focus on writing. Therefore … Madrid and Athens.

And it’s working! Sort of. A question I’m asking myself now is, “Are my expectations being met?” And, yes, I’m getting time alone. But I’m discovering the alone-ness to be kind of distracting. 

Extroverts will totally know what I’m talking about! 

I actually land somewhere between an extrovert and an introvert. To be around people [I like] is one of life’s greatest joys, but I also value alone time. A lot. Sitting with a good book in a cozy coffee shop is another of life’s greatest joys. And I get tense and frustrated if I don’t have an hour or two—maybe two or three—of alone time before bed.

(I can hear my parental friends with small children laughing hilariously at this point!)

But In Madrid I’ve discovered that by not having people to meet or spend time with, I’ve lost something to look forward to in a day. And by not having something to look forward to, I have less motivation to be productive. 

(And now I can hear some of you saying, “Yep, totally get that,” while others raise an eyebrow and say, “Wow, your discipline stinks.”)

What am I learning?

All that is to say is, so far, this is a rather fascinating experiment. And experience. Here in Madrid I’m slowly, slowly getting into a rhythm of rest and work. Slowly. It’s difficult in this context. I miss people. Not having anyone to connect with is distracting. The anticipation of meeting with a friend is something to look forward to. To not have that doesn’t depress me … yet … but I think a part of me sort of retreats inward. My world gets smaller. To protect myself? Maybe. It’s worth thinking about.

I’ve also learned it might be too early in the writing process for me to have so much solitude.

Next Saturday is my last day in Madrid, after which I fly to Athens for five weeks. I’ll still be “alone,” but a friend of mine is putting me in contact with a good friend of his in the city. That means I might have more people interaction. There’s also a chance a friend or two will visit me in Athens. So I’m interested to see if my productivity will rise with the possibility of meeting new friends and seeing old ones.

Will I find that distracting … or invigorating? 

Besides a few blog entries and the beginning of an outline, I haven’t “produced” very much yet. (Well, I also put a personal website together, but my book hasn’t gotten very far.) I’ve done some research, though. I’m taking notes. Dreaming. Figuring this writing thing out. I keep reminding myself that I need to give myself grace, that I’m doing something I’ve never done before. 

Because failure is fine. I have time.