This month, I’d like to talk about something that I think is important and people talk about all the time but is often ignored or not intentionally pursued. That is solitude. If you browse the internet, you can find a multitude of quotes about how solitude is essential to creativity, and I wholeheartedly agree with this. I would also say it’s essential even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person. Now in fairness, I speak as an introvert, someone who is ridiculously introverted in fact, and I can’t speak for all of the extroverts in the world. Although, I still think there’s something about being alone that extroverts need to experience on a regular basis.
Time away from other people is essential to think and relax. In the hustle and bustle of our society, there are people everywhere with demands on our time and attention, the two most valuable resources we have as individuals. In my day job, I am constantly bumping into people, literally, and by the end of the week, the simple act of trying to maneuver around someone is exhausting. I don’t think I’m alone in this, especially as an introvert. Creativity comes from within and if we don’t have that solitude to relax and order our thoughts, it won’t be pretty, or worse, it may not happen at all.
Beyond creativity, there are numerous reasons to seek solitude. It helps relieve stress. Being around people, trying to meet demands or say no can be stressful. When you’re dealing with people, you never quite know how it’s going to work out, and after handling all of these details in life, it helps to stop and breathe. Sometimes it feels like we try to fit so many things in our minds at once and multitask in so many different directions that things start falling out and slipping through the cracks.
Solitude gives you time to reflect and time to plan. You can look back and decide how to handle the future, and if you do it in solitude, you don’t have to worry about input from others coloring your views. You can become comfortable with yourself, learn how you think, and what you think.
For me, the most effective kind of solitude is in nature. I can be alone in my apartment, or take a walk in the city, but it’s not the same as being out in nature somewhere, away from the streets and the cars and most of the people. There’s something about being in the mountains (or on a beach or by a river) that makes being alone so much sweeter. I spent three days backpacking in the mountains and came back feeling better than I have in months, despite all of the sore muscles. There’s a video called Nature Rx that gives an amusing take on why nature is important.
On the other side of solitude is the need to balance it with participation in the world. Creativity usually happens in solitude, but without interaction with other people there would be no ideas and no one to share them with anyway. People often say that inspiration comes from within, which I think is true, but without interacting with people, reading books, having experiences in the world, and balancing that with time alone to process, there would be nothing to draw from.
My challenge to you is to find somewhere to be alone for a day, or even a few hours, preferably in nature, and use the time to breathe.
Here are some of the more interesting and amusing quotes I found about solitude if you need more inspiration.
“One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Isolation can lead to uniqueness, but uniqueness also walks the halls of mental institutions.” ~Winston Seeney
“Solitude is independence.” ~Hermann Hesse
By Melissa Blakely