When Stevie Nicks was cutting her first solo album, the just-released Bella Donna, she recalls, "I promised myself I wasn't going to get crazy over it. I didn't want to be devastated in case it didn't work." But after more than six years with the supergroup Fleetwood Mac, says Nicks, "I had all these tunes stored up. I really needed to know that I could do something on my own."

She can. In just a month, Bella Donna jumped over Journey and raced past Rickie Lee Jones into the No. 1 slot, going platinum with sales exceeding 1.3 million. The single off the LP, the driving duet Stop Draggin' My Heart Around with Tom Petty, is Top Five and climbing. Obviously, Stevie's solo career is hardly nix. But should she ever need job security, one of rock's silkier safety nets awaits her: Fleetwood Mac has moved some 20 million albums since 1975, and Nicks has chipped in with soft-rocking gems like Rhiannon, Landslide and Sara.

It was Mac's grueling globe-conquering itineraries that helped inspire her solo flight. Her vocal cords were scorched; the group didn't record often enough to use all her compositions; and it had taken a siegelike 13 months to finish Mac's 1979 LP, Tusk. "We had to grow up and stop being so self-indulgent," she says. "That life can turn you into a desert. Rock stars never know where the hell they've been. I just got tireder and tireder, sort of spaced-out and cloistered. I was determined to find musicians who hadn't been in a famous band for a thousand years, not stay up all night, and take better care of myself." That, she knew, meant discipline, and her Bella Donna producer, Jimmy lovine, obliged: "He said, 'We're not paying good musicians to hang around waiting for you. This is no longer Fleetwood Mac—this is serious.' "

Nicks has never taken music lightly. Born to a Phoenix executive, she was attending San Jose State when she met guitar whiz Lindsey Buckingham. The romantic duo tried to team professionally too, but by the time they fell in with Mick Fleetwood and Christine and John McVie (since divorced), Stevie was hacking it as a waitress.

Fleetwood Mac's staggering success led to a personal split with Buckingham in 1976. But Nicks' romantic "poker game," as she puts it, inspired some superb lyricism on the theme of love at the speed of rock. "I would hope I never fall in love with a big-time happening rock 'n' roll guy," she says now. "I'd have my spies everywhere with all those gorgeous blondes around. It's like dangling candy in front of them." At the same time she's found "being someone's girlfriend on the road is worse than being a maid." Having a nonrock boyfriend tagging along is also out: "You can't even put them to work, like cleaning up, because they have room service for that."

At the moment, Stevie's friends tend to be sisterly confidantes. She lives in a modest two-bedroom condo in Marina del Rey. "I don't need jillions more dollars," she explains. "I've got enough wonderful clothes and boots, two Yorkies, a baby Doberman, two cars and a terrific family. I just need to have some fun." Nicks says she may move to Manhattan to find it. "I'm perfect for the city. My fancy clothes just hang in L.A. I'd love to dress up, go out to the ballet and museums and meet some other kinds of people."

Until Nicks comes East, she has ample time to make voluminous entries in her journal, the one sure anchor in her peripatetic life. The best, Stevie says, are written well past midnight, in the solitude of a hotel room: "I've written it all down—the very interesting, the boring, the wonderfully romantic, the terribly sad and the heartbreaking." She found out just how much it meant one night on tour when a fire broke out in her hotel. "You know what I grabbed? My cashmere blanket and the duffel bag I keep all my writing in. Believe me, there was a lot in there, an awful lot for me to carry down 14 flights of stairs."