Why Creativity Flourishes In Solitude
The quiet is your best friend. It’s there that creativity will come, without coaxing, without manipulation.
Solitude is your best friend. It’s there that creativity will come, without coaxing, without manipulation.
Welcome to The Reflectionist, a daily dose of reflection on the nature of the self, personal reality, creativity, life and work, submitted to the public record for posterity. Read personal essays and articles on the psychology of creativity to help you nurture and broaden your creative prowess.
When I was about 15 or 16, I would come home from work in the evenings and head straight for my tiny box bedroom.
There I would sit alone on my bed for hours, music on, the old single glazed aluminium window slightly open, smoking a Carroll’s №1.
Leaving my bedroom door slightly ajar would allow a draught to come up through the house and take the cigarette smoke out the gap in the window.
It was perfect.
There on my own, I would contemplate life, myself, the girls I fancied and how it might be possible to get to know some of them despite my practically incurable introversion.
It was a strange situation to be in because I lived in a house full of women.
There were always friends of my sisters toing and froing so you would think that I would be used to girls.
But I wasn’t. I kept my distance instead.
My father worked a lot, and so I was the only male in the house most of the time.
I was a shy young fella.
I know why that was now.
My formative years were such that I developed along an introverted line, but these days, I’m forever grateful for that.
Grateful because if I did not have a home environment that drove me to find the peace of my own company, I would not be comfortable today in my own skin, alone to think.
These days there is little I value more than my own company.
Being alone with my thoughts is the perfect condition.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the company of others, I do. It’s just that given the preference I’d probably choose myself over others.
A personality condition conducive to writing.
Finding A Quiet Space
Last summer, I converted the shed at the bottom of the garden into a studio office.
My wife calls it “The Man Cave”, and she’s as happy I built it as I am because I am an absolute terror when I’m trying to do any meaningful work in the house with people around.
It’s almost midnight as I write this, and I’ve been here most of the day, editing articles, browsing Medium and deciding which publications are a good match for me.
I’ve also been looking into the Medium Partner Program.
Anyway, it’s tranquil, and I have very few distractions, which is important for creative work, for any solo work.
Finding a quiet space in which to create is perhaps one of the single most essential prerequisites for creative work.
This is true now as it has always been, despite the popular convention towards collaboration.
In corporate work spaces we allow ourselves to be herded like cattle into boxes by entities who pretend, through their willful managers, to care for our wellbeing.
Corporates and large organisations don’t honestly care about you; they care about your productivity.
You are a number on a spreadsheet. You an arbitrary unit hired for your ability to earn revenue and subject to replacement should your productivity is not what they determine as acceptable.
Sure there are employment rights, toilet paper, and air-conditioning. You get free coffee and fucking gourmet dinners, but they are simply tools to help you, and I feel more secure in our insecurity.
The people to whom you report often feel as you do, but they carry out the instructions of their superiors nonetheless.
Duties they must fulfil to keep their jobs.
The person cares for you, but they’ll do their job first. They shelve their humanity and yield to bureaucratic responsibility for the sake of that job — for security, which ironically, is not security at all.
Employers don’t care for you.
You must care for yourself and the work you do, and ultimately if you are to find the space to fulfil your creative potential, then you must paddle your own canoe.
Yes, there is, of course, merit in working with others in a collaborate environment but only for a while and the right reasons.
To make something truly worthwhile, something that reflects that inner, ultimately unknowable aspect of yourself, you must retreat into your own private space away from the noise and distraction of the world.
Creativity Flourishes In Solitude
Psychologists attempt to understand the nature of the mind’s “Black Box”, the place where the magic happens.
Information goes in via the sensory apparatus is transformed somehow, then remarkably produces behaviour that is unpredictable and insight that can never be brought about by thinking.
Answers to enduring scientific questions, for example, have come our way by means for which we have no account.
The mathematician Poincaré explains one of his essential discoveries as follows;
For fifteen days, I strove to prove that there could not be any functions like those I have since called Fuchsian functions. I was then very ignorant; every day I seated myself at my work table, stayed an hour or two, tried a great number of combinations and reached no results. One evening contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds: I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. By the next morning, I had established the existence of a class of Fuchsian functions…
It appears that for Poincaré, he needed time away from his scheduled activity, apart from his standard working pattern so that other areas of his mind could become active and offer alternatives. For him, the established structure wasn’t yielding results.
But groundbreaking scientific achievements are not the only things at risk from our increased inability to find solitude. Physicist Alan Lightman in his book In Praise of Wasting Time, says;
The loss of slowness, of time for reflection and contemplation, of privacy and solitude, of silence, of the ability to sit quietly in a chair for fifteen minutes without external stimulation- all have happened quickly and almost invisibly…The situation is dire. We are losing the ability to know who we are and what is important to us. We are creating a global machine in which each of us is mindless and reflexive cog.
Lightman goes on to suggest that half our waking minds be designated and saved for quiet reflection. Otherwise, we are destroying our inner selves and our creative capacities.
For a mind free from the pressure to perform to someone else’s agenda and demands, there is peace and creative potential, and although I don’t smoke any longer, I still value that quiet time alone.
Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters