Solitude: The importance of alone time for fuelling creativity
Not to be confused with loneliness, solitude is a constructive solitary state that scientists say is absolutely essential to creativity. Apps and podcasts rob us from otherwise natural moments of solitude and the creative breakthroughs that happen in extended periods of silence. In his book Imagine, Johan Lehrer shares his research on the link between downtime and problem solving, saying, “While it’s commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus, this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost: it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs.” At Winterwares, we’ve found that setting aside time to be alone in the studio and let the mind run idle is so important to allow creative ideas rise to the surface. Solitude also adds to a sense of overall wellbeing, because — like the body — the mind needs to rest.
So what are some other benefits we can gain from solitude?
Aside from helping us to be more creative, solitude is gives our brain all-important downtime it needs to process all the information we come into contact with throughout our day. In the Scientific American, Ferris Jabr writes that downtime is not purposeless, it is essential to mental processes that “affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behaviour and instil an internal code of ethics.” "We replay conversations we had earlier that day, rewrite our verbal blunders as a way of learning to avoid them in the future." says Jabr, "We mull over the aspects of our lives with which we are most dissatisfied, searching for solutions. We sink into scenes from childhood and catapult ourselves into different hypothetical futures." So how do we find solitude? Here are three simple ways to find more solitude in your day or week;
The first step to finding solitude is to cut off all means of connection with the outer world. An easy before phones and iPads existed. Now, we must allocate times throughout our day to disconnect is. Moments, where you'd otherwise be in solitude if your phone wasn't around, are best. For example, at home, before bed, or first thing in the morning. As much as we love podcasts and audiobooks, going for a walk without an iPhone is the perfect time to let the mind wander free.
Get some vitamin ‘N'Vitamin ‘N’ is finding time to be in nature. It's vital for our mental health and a great place to find solitude.
Other ideas include;
- Enjoy a cup of tea alone outside in the morning before the house wakes up
- Meditate outside — you can keep your eyes open or closed
- Walking meditation
- People-watching in the park
- Watching a sunset or a sunrise at least once a week
- Keep a notebook nearby
In her TED Talk Your Elusive Creative Genius, Elizabeth Gilbert shares an anecdote about Tom Waits who’s ideas would come to him at the most ‘inconvenient times.’ Not coincidentally, these were moments of solitude; while driving a car, in his case. Famously Waits says, ‘can you not see that I’m driving? If you’re serious about wanting to exist then I spend eight hours a day in the studio. You’re welcome to come and visit me when I’m sitting at my piano. Otherwise, leave me alone and go bother Leonard Cohen.’ If only Tom Waits knew the connection between solitude and creativity, he’d bring a notebook with him. While your mind is in idle downtime, you will likely have creative breakthroughs, or questions come to mind, but resist the urge to Google them! How often have you innocently opened your phone to check one thing, only to spend 15 plus minutes opening apps, scrolling Instagram or the news? This is why keeping an unplugged paper notebook nearby can be handy to jot down notes and ideas to follow up on later.
A few other bonus ideas;
- Tag team an hour of alone time with your spouse if you have kids
- Have a bath, but don’t bring any devices, books, or notepads with you
- Read a book
- Learn to draw or play an instrument or any other solo hobby you can think of
- Turn music off — as much as we love music, it’s great to give your mind a break