“Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others, and to surprise and delight ourselves instead.” ~ Katrina Kenison
It is beneficial for us to withdraw from others time to time, to seek out solitude. A lot of introverts enjoy their own company as being alone is not the same as being lonely. Studies have found that there is a link between a kind of social withdrawal and a beneficial outcome—increased creativity.
Many creative people will probably tell you that their creative window is late at night, where most people are asleep, when there are no phone calls, emails or text messages. This is because at this time, they are in solitude and silence is a great canvas for thoughts. That lack of interruption allows the creative juices to flow freely.
It is important that we step away from the daily chatter and let our minds wander freely, without any distractions. Solitude is required for our unconscious mind to process and unravel problems. We need quiet time to make new discoveries and to look for original answers. The capacity to be alone and enjoy it also leads to self-discovery, and being in touch with one’s deepest needs, feelings and impulses.
People who seek solitude do it because they enjoy the quiet time. When they are alone, their thoughts become clearer and it is easier to organise them. These individuals are not anti-social, they do not avoid interactions with the others. They may just get enough social interactions so that when they are alone, they enjoy being by themselves.
A lot of exceptional creators are more likely to be introverted. In physics, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, two of the greatest in inventors, worked mostly in isolation. Einstein has often been quoted as saying, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” Think of Van Gogh alone in an asylum and Beethoven’s withdrawal into silent solitude.
Anthony Storr, author of Solitude: A Return to the Self, wrote in his book that solitude ranks alongside relationships in its impact on an individual’s well-being and productivity, as well as on society’s progress. Solitary activities do not benefit creative people only, the average person can also enriched by spending time with oneself.
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, brainstorming groups generate fewer ideas than the same number of solitary people working alone. Psychological studies have also shown that brainstorming sessions are more effective when they are done in isolation. Such findings may appear contradicting, since we often associate brainstorming with a group of people in a conference room. But studies suggest that people tend to be better at working through complex problems when they work alone than they do when working in groups.
Some solitary activities include:
- sitting by the beach and listening to the waves crash on the shore
- watching the clouds go by
- taking a long walk in the park
- lying in bed in total darkness
- reading a good book
- writing your thoughts down in your journal
- spending the entire day colouring or painting
- taking a long bus ride where the destination is unknown
Most importantly, when you are doing these activities, make sure that you are totally unplugged.
So if you would like to be more in tuned with your creative being, make time for solitude. Don’t be afraid of being labelled as “anti-social” or “a hermit”, for people like Hemingway and J.K. Rowling are definitely on your side.