Ave atque Vale

Well now, this is a sort of farewell. An au revoir more than an adieu but a valediction all the same. This morning I switch off most of my connections with the outside world, for I have work to do. I must deliver a book to my publishers by the end of April or my soul and testicles will be forfeit.

Some people can write with ease in whatever circumstances they find themselves. Up a tree, on a bus, in a log cabin, a steamy-windowed café or a tropical beach. Some don’t mind noise, distraction or a broken up day. I, unhappily, am not made of this material. I need peace, absolute peace, an empty diary and zero distraction. I enter a kind of writing purdah, an eremitical seclusion in which there is just me, a keyboard and abundant cups of coffee, all in a room whose curtains have been drawn against the light. I would have added tobacco as a constant and necessary companion, but I stopped smoking some two and half years ago, so no longer will there be the pleasure of having a pipe clamped between the teeth as I grope for the Flaubertian mot juste.

I have a single appointment in London towards the end of January and another in Barcelona a month or so later. Otherwise I shall be as one wiped from the map of human existence. This is how it must be.

All this is a way of saying, of course, that my twitter stream will dry up for that period. No doubt this will come as a relief to some, but I am not so sunk in false modesty as to be unaware that there are loyal followers who will emit long, loud wails of “Noooooooo!” and who will feel pained and dispirited . But I hope they will understand that this is a) imperative and b) temporary. I shall return.

And what of this book? Twelve years ago I wrote a volume of autobiography called Moab Is My Washpot. It is essentially a memoir of childhood and adolescence and ends after our hero is released from prison and contrives, with a year’s probation still to run, to get himself a place at university. The book I must now write will follow on from this. Whether it will be chronological or thematic, first person or third I have no idea. That is the adventure, if I can call it such, that lies before me. The loneliness of writing, or of my kind of writing at least, is absolute. The other week, the excellent @wishdasher tweeted me a line by Paul Tilich: “Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” Whether my reclusive isolation will be painful or glorious remains to be seen. Accept my apologies for what must be and believe me, no one yearns more keenly for the day when I will be able to be back amongst you all.


This blog was posted in General and Miniblog

327 comments on “Ave atque Vale”

  1. CuddlyDragon says:

    Hope the writing goes well. Will miss you, but looking forward to reading the new book :)

  2. R.W. says:

    Totally understand. I plan to do the same thing. Twitter’s a time-sapping strumpet and books don’t write themselves. Thanks for all your support and kindness. You have been so generous with your time and emotions and anyone who resents your break from the interwebs is a rotten egg.

    Thanks for everything this year. You have no idea how much you have helped me.

    Much love and thanks,

    Rebecca xxxx

  3. bryanhypnosis says:

    OK, see you soon.
    Take care.
    Will miss the commentary re the PDC darts!

  4. vlb says:

    We’ll miss you Stephen and we understand. Some of us also recognize the importance of keeping distractions at bay!

    Looking forward to “seeing” you when you’re back with us.

  5. Charra Rede says:

    I will miss you.

  6. KayAir says:

    *Cries* Whaaaaaaaa! *sniffles*
    Everyone else can have a stiff upper lip and be eloquent in their wishes and comments.
    I on the other hand shall be a blithering idiot and mope about until you return.
    I may not comment, but your tweets are a bright spot in my day.
    I look forward to your return, may the months go quickly.
    Oh and I do wish you the best in your writing.(see not completely selfish :P )

  7. Avath says:

    HUGELY looking forward to the book, Mr. Fry!

  8. ragman123 says:

    Hope to see you writing on twitter et al soon.

  9. bambam says:

    Can’t say it better than the other people here. I’ll miss you, very much indeed, and I can’t wait for your “comeback”‘, ofcours with your new book. It’s nice to know that you’re away because of someting good, someting to look forward to. We’ll miss you. Good luck, with your writing. Love you <3
    Eva xoxoxx

  10. Maria_White says:

    We will miss you. I enjoy reading your tweets every day. Thanks god is only “Un adiós temporal”.

  11. peter steward says:

    Hi Stephen

    All work and no play makes Jack or Stephen a dull boy. So take some time out from the writing to see the film Nowhere Boy. I went to see it at Cinema City in Norwich today and it was a delight – brilliantly evoking the feel of Liverpool and the British rock scene in the late 1950s.


  12. INKYFATCAT says:

    I am looking forward to volume three even more than the tome you are currently working on! Good luck, and sincerely hope that you find your inner muse , and don’t fall out with her. She could turn out to be Alan Davies in drag!

    Good luck with your enterprise, and Happy New Year!


  13. Tamiris says:

    I shall wait for you, Mr. Fry :D
    Hope all goes well. Im sure it’ll be a great book!

  14. apersona says:

    steven – before you unplug and head off down memory lane, remember to download ommwriter – the best writing app for the mac i’ve found! ommwriter.com (duh). it’s a thing of beauty. and it really works for serene writing! (this is an actual unsolicited endorsement!). enjoy : )

  15. AxmxZ says:

    О сколько нам открытий чудных
    Готовят просвещенья дух,
    И опыт, сын ошибок трудных,
    И гений, парадоксов друг… :)

  16. Ximajs says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed “Moab is my Washpot”, and look forward to the next chapter of your life in print. Have a happy new year and enough peace and quiet for your soul and testicles to be safe.

    PS: I hope QI will be on TV even though you are busy writing.

  17. Kuroshii says:

    wouldn’t you know it, my muse works very similar to yours: i bought my laptop sans wireless to get away from the internet and get things done. just gimme that coffee and i’m on my way.

    happy new year, and happy wordsmithing! we’ll see you on the flip side.

  18. redex says:

    A strange coincidence? I just finished read Moab Is My Washpot a moment ago and thought to myself I wouldn’t mind reading even more.

    It was something I needed to read just now, and surprised me with certain reflections of my own current position in life. Or maybe anything I would have read just now would have seemed relevant. In any case, it was a good cautionary tale for what I really shouldn’t do with the next few years of my life. I do appreciate very much that you’ve had the bravery to dig all of this out of yourself and share it with the world, even if for no other reason than that I enjoyed reading it. With a few sympathetic squirms of awkwardness.

    Good luck on your writing, I will miss even your cryptic darts commentaries and look forward to hearing from you again. Take care.

  19. Evelyn Harris says:

    I so envy that you can do this, just disappear and write. I took three months off work to do that. I did nothing, apart from one week of putting together a few dreadful pages to try and complete my Masters…..I am still doing it now…

    So good luck and I admire your dedication.

    Miss E

  20. Ajius says:

    I understand the need for silence, isolation. Embarking upon a literary endeavour is akin to Odysseus travelling to the underworld. When you have done charming the Muse, and when you have saturated the inner Tiresias with such wonderful mirth and intellect, you, in league with the spring, shall return. Strangely, in my own isolation on Ireland’s west coast, I am about to do the same. Bon voyage. We all await your return.

    Much love,


  21. Shantylien says:

    and just now that I joined :)
    I wish you well – with your writing and the revisiting of places in the past.

  22. penmanart says:

    Stephen. I wish you every success in your endeavour to produce a volume of fryness and quality. May it be done within an atmosphere of calm and tranquillity. Hurry back amongst the ordinary people we all love you for being you!!

  23. Sebastian Melmoth says:

    I always enjoy reading this quote before writing. Best of luck!!!

    “A fashionable milieu is one in which everybody’s opinion is made up of the opinion of all the others. Has everybody a different opinion? Then it is a literary milieu.” –Marcel Proust


  24. ladyarkles says:

    Sending you wishes for silence and a kaleidoscope (just for fun).
    I understand the need for that peace, it is the only way to hear your own “still small voice of calm”.

    Good Luck.
    If you aren’t using all of the muses please could you send one this way?
    I have a deadline looming for a review of a particularly ghastly Spa, so may need to be a little creative!

    Rachel xx

  25. TobiasMonk says:

    We’ll leave a light on for ya ;-)

  26. mandar says:

    I hope you are going to be writing old-school, with a quill of sorts, or a nice typewriter. If not, then something like Darkroom, with green text on a black screen.

    Toodles, Mr. Fry, and wish you all the best! We look forward to reading your new work. :)

  27. btdart says:

    I admit it, I did scream Nooooooo!.
    I wish you everything you need to
    achieve your goal.
    Don’t forget to get a little sunlight once in awhile.

    take care Mr. Fry


  28. yvettegr says:

    By all means forsake twitter to write your book (as long as it’s temporary). And in support of your efforts, I’ll write one too. Have fun.

  29. janecollie says:

    Huzzah! I just read “Moab is My Washpot” in October and I wondered if we would ever get more of the
    story and the glory and the ignominy of Mr. Stephen Fry.

  30. computermum says:

    Good luck! Just when I’d managed to learn how to sync my IPOD! Hurry back.

  31. Steff says:

    May your solitude be glorious – much lovexx Steff

  32. niamhbrown says:

    Have Fun in your writing cave. I’ve been doing the same over the holidays, one day left then back to work tomorrow.

    I read Moab is my Washpot some years ago. I found it very insightful and was a great help since it gave me a space to deal with my manic depressive family.

    I’m looking forward to the new book, it’s the first I’ve heard of it. :D

    Take care,


  33. lhynn.x says:

    Well if you need a cup of something, just sing out.
    Miss you, see you soon.

  34. george walker says:

    Glad it is only temporary withdrawal. Looking forward to the book.

  35. xnetmax says:

    I love he way you have used the following line “enter a kind of writing purdah” just so beautiful, so good.

    Well get a pear of good slippers so you can potter about in but ,when you do write something that’s good with also when you feel that you’re on a role, with some good work and progress, light a joss stick or get a fragrant you like and wave it loft so that you associate your best writing frame of mind to that smell so you can get back in that mined set when need, just a tip

    Thank you

    Habib :-)

  36. fallingdue says:

    One is torn between missing your wit, which brightens even the dreariest of days, and tingling anticipation in losing oneself in the world you are stiving to pen. In both I am eager for you to hurry, but do not rush. One hopes the solitude uplifts your soul & inspires your mind, be invigorated & refreshed, delight in your retreat from the world. Return triumphant soonest Stephen.

  37. Bobble says:

    About bleedin’ time.
    My copy of Moab is so dog eared and grubby I can barely read it.
    Get scribbling Fry.
    Love You.

  38. jacob93 says:

    We shall miss you and did you pass though a town called Wanstead/Alderbrook on the second and around 6/7 pm as i think I saw a “FRY” taxi

  39. freegrog says:

    The very best of luck with your new literary outing,as my mother said to me “remember to dot your I’s and cross your T’s” otherwise it’ll be lIls

  40. Lady Bracknell says:

    Have fun writing, Stephen. I didn’t really scream ‘Noooo'; more of a somewhat irked hiss of dismay, but I’m sure it satisfies to the same effect.

    Much love,

  41. LeapDayBaby says:

    Best of luck to you as you embark on your new adventure! I’ll miss you terribly, but will content myself with the knowledge that my patience will be rewarded with a spectacular read. XX

  42. Antonia says:

    Viel Erfolg!

  43. meryl says:

    May the words flow freely from the corners of your mind through the tips of your fingers.

    We will welcome you back with great joy upon your return!

  44. spinch says:

    I am sure that all of your Twitter followers will miss the insight in to your world. However rest assured we will endeavour to keep the world abreast of the ups and downs of NCFC, the England Cricket Team, World Darts (maybe not) and the delights of the Norfolk countryside, all of which are passions to us both. Best of luck with the writing.


  45. savioursofpop says:

    stephen – there is no getting around it – just popping off the digital radar for so long simply will not do – you should, in fact, do the opposite…

    Elect a member of the community, who, in a Bridget Jones styleee, can log the gestation of your fine work in the form of a daily report (cups of coffee, trips to Asda, daytime TV watched etc)

    your publisher might even pay a small stipend to the lucky person, who would in passing, be creating superb upfront PR for the forthcoming book

    I happen to have little to do of import for the next 4 months and would happy oblige!

  46. Kuriouscat says:

    Hello Steph,
    I have just joined today, so I hope I am not late in wishing you good luck with your scrolls.

  47. Kuriouscat says:

    Eat Tunnocks teacakes…they are good!

  48. Well, my timing is, as ever, superb–
    i happily find your site and sign up for the team, just in time to bid you best wishes for your blog sabbatical.

    Those best wishes are quite sincere, all the same.

    Your commentary reminds me a bit of David Sedaris discussing teaching his first community college writing seminar:
    ” I’d always hated it when a teacher forced us to invent something on the spot. Aside from the obvious pressure, it seemed that everyone had his or her own little way of doing things, especially when it came to writing. Maybe someone needed a particular kind of lamp or pen or typewriter. In my experience, it was hard to write without your preferred tools, but impossible to write without a cigarette.

    “… By the end of the second session, my students had produced nothing but ashes. Their hacking coughs and complete lack of output suggested that, for certain writers, smoking was obviously not enough.”

    Here’s hoping that if smoking doesn’t do the trick, a little solitary sensory deprivation will.

    Happy 2010!

  49. mralison2001 says:

    I am not a regular on this website or on twitter but I do drop in in every so often and am so often encouraged, amused, educated and entertained by your daily thoughts and feelings. I don’t have the eloquence of your regular devotees I fear (I’m just not that clever)but as best as I can express it, I hope to let you know how much that you will be missed in your absence. I imagine you will have the good will and support of all your fans behind you as you get stuck into this new task. You certainly have mine. Happy trails x

  50. Ms. Who says:

    I’m not gonna complain here, cause, well, being a professional writer sounds hard. I have a difficulty getting motivated to write a school paper let alone a manuscript for a book! Anyway, good luck! ^_^

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