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by Ana Maria Jomolca

I don’t know anyone, outside of monks and Charles Manson who spends as much time alone as I do.  I’m sure they exist but they’re not within [my] earshot or sightline.  Even the homeless are out there meeting new people everyday.

I nearly always feel as though I am working and creating in a vacuum. This I’ve heard and read ad nauseum goes with the territory of writing and the initial tremors of any creative process. That moment between vacant and percolating.  Between idea and form. How to be at peace in those moments when it is just you and your creating; whether sitting with a character who just barged into your kitchen catching you staring at a blank page, or the countless hours that elapse as you draw the same set of lips and fists over and over and once again because it is not quite right, yet.  Because it has not captured precisely the anguish, rage, joy, defeat, triumph, helplessness, the all and all at onceness that has your protagonist heaving and punching at the air. 

Every morning I look out my fish bowl and see the scatter of ants moving to and fro on the street below; people out there with jobs, steady jobs, working, showing up for board meetings, day care open houses, giving speeches, breeding and adopting, ending world hunger, boarding planes, always on their way to somewhere and something important.  People expected by other people and on time.

I watch intently, pointing at them, perplexed and outraged, shouting to no one “People are out there, circulating, goddamnit!  In Life!”   Or so it seems.

It’s hard to feel like an active participant in the world when you spend days, weeks, months with no job to turn up for, no rehearsal that expects you eagerly at six, no blog demanding your post, no deadline to meet, no contract to negotiate, no pick up van waiting for you on the corner of 96th and Broadway to drive you to set, where costume, makeup, cast and crew await you daily, weekly and for the whole of three seasons.

Days bleed into more days. Hours go by, accelerating exponentially as you try to practice your craft alone in your chamber.  You finally look up and see that day is now night and once again you race to the window to bookend your horror.  They are back: little dots moving through charcoal slush and cracked sidewalks, thin dots rushing home racing past thicker, slower dots, all size and shaped dots ending another long, busy day.  And you can’t figure whether you are starting or ending your day.  You have no punch clock.  No witnesses.  Every time you tell yourself you are part of the pulse, beating along with others and contributing to the greater, lesser, or any whole, you feel like a cheap con, unable to keep from staring at the long stretches of inertia and solitude, wondering where everyone is, has been, whom with and why.

I wonder what Philip Seymour Hoffman experienced in his moments alone.  I wonder if he wondered whether someone, somewhere, now or ever is crouched in their bathroom, folded into himself, feeling this.   Then the stark truth hits me; no matter how gifted and successful, nor the severity of emotional intelligence & understanding of human condition and frailty; no matter how much the world recognizes and reveres you, no matter how much you love and are loved, we all have that moment(s) when we are alone with no one but ourselves. And it.  When the party is over, when the ceremony ends, when the candles burn out, when the band packs it up and the guests trickle down to none.  When it is just you and the empty courtyard, the empty room, the empty bed, the empty emptiness.  Do we dare stay with this or do we race off, chasing the next party, the next crowd, the next next?

We are constantly in a state of not knowing how we are doing and looking toward others to confirm or disprove it.  Even the accolades eventually die down to whatever my default setting is: what I believe to be true about myself in those moments alone.

If others never see the painting or read the poem or hear the melody or monologue, has it no merit?  If there is no witness to the unexpected and paralyzing grief one feels for the loss of a man one has never met, is the grief unearned and therefore unwarranted? Is it still not grief? Is it even mine?  Can we feel as valid in our private, unwitnessed, unpeopled moments? When the text refuses to reply and the call back never calls back.  Can we friend and like ourselves?  Be our own FaceBook?

To find balance between solitude and collaboration.  To be at peace during the aloneness, during the imagining, creating, or downright nothingness, the blank page, the absence of idea, inspiration gone AWOL, and the inability to express or express accurately.  To give space and breathing room to this ‘feeling disconnected and excluded from the world’, all the human traffic and activity (and man can NYC crank up the hustle-and-bustle-movers-and-shakers-this-could-be-you-but-hey-out-of-sight-out-of-mind storyline to ear deafening pitch), while my Persephone submerges into the underworld to restore and reconnect with the true source of all creativity; the vast & limitless imagination, the voice and impulse that is neither touched nor influenced by anything.

Perhaps that is the calling and demand of the artist: taking on dare after dare to stand firm in the face of anguish before that anguish turns to beauty and relief in the poem, the lyric, Act III.  To embrace the anguish which is the beauty and not an ambush.  Might that be the greatest thing we can bring to ourselves, to the collective and to all collaborations?

Mary McCarthy once wrote “We are the hero of our own story.”

Perhaps that lone figure peering out her window is really a sentinel perched hundreds of feet above, observing the hoard of singulars among the masses shuffling across gravel and concrete, struggling to connect to something, someone, anyone, and anything. Those nobody’s that fail [again and again] to make the daily headlines; those we pass quickly and step over on the street. And from her ledge, the dare steps forth and reveals the task: to guard, document and verify life and living and honor it quietly in her journal, sketch pad or an email she had no intention of writing.  To recognize that she is both the writer and the written about. And all that is asked of her is: Pay Attention.




487713_465441310146837_1887981551_nAna Maria Jomolca is a Cuban writer, director and actor. She studied at The Neighborhood Playhouse where she completed the two-year Professional Actor Training Program, then continued her training with Suzanne Shepherd and Wynn Handman.

Over the past fifteen years, she has written, directed and produced several of her own plays in the Off Broadway circuit.  She has written and performed in theAtrainplays and The House of Bernarda Alba at Repertorio Español. Her one-woman show Just Another Spic and her most recent play, Chiquitina, debuted in New York at E.S.T. and   Manhattan Theater Source.

   She wrote and produced her first film, everygirl, which debuted at Tribeca Film Center and screened at “Women in the Director’s Chair International Film Festival” in Chicago, The New Festival in NYC, BAM Cinema and Pioneer Theatre’s New Filmmaker’s Forum. TV appearances include; Orange is the New Black, 30 Rock, Without a Trace, The Jury, directed by Barry Levinson, Law & Order: Trial by Juryand Rescue Me.

She has been published in The Sun Magazine, The New York Press,  ‘National Geographic’s ‘Glimpse Abroad’ and GLEE magazine.  She received her MFA in Fiction at Hunter College under the tutelage of Peter Carey and Colum McCann and her short story, Twin Bed, in Sisters: An Anthology is out now in bookstores.

She is a Teaching Artist and is currently performing the stage adaptation of Sandra Cisneros’s novel, The House on Mango Street  and The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe both locally and nationally as part of The American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Program.

Her visual art, PINS, RODS & OTHER INTRUSIONS, a photo essay exploration of “the body as canvas” was on exhibit at The Estrogenius Festival.

She is Co-Artistic Directors of The LabRats Theater Company and produced their first play, Harry and Pep  March 2011 at Center Stage, NYC. www.thelabratsnyc.com


Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

Ana Maria Jomolca
About Ana Maria Jomolca

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