Isolation & Creativity
Seeking solace in loneliness by Tevon Ademu-John
I’ve always considered myself to be an introvert. I enjoy being alone. Though I don’t mind being around others, my best work and ideas often come when I’m lonely (and often depressed). This article isn’t meant to depress anyone, however. I’m often asked why I prefer to create in isolation. That being said, I will focus on two major benefits of isolation I have come to rely on when tackling creative projects:
1. Reduced Environmental Distractions
Perhaps this first point is obvious. Hanging around friends, family, and other loved ones can be entertaining, but, in my experience, it is impossible to get any serious work done. It’s hard to get in the zone when you’re hearing how everyone’s day is going or constantly being asked what you’re working on. It’s not like those you care about want you to fail, but in their curiosities, you often spend more time explaining what you’d like to be doing rather than actually doing it. In some cases, these curiosities can turn into concerns, at which that point family members quickly turn into critics.
As one of my mentors pointed out, it can be frustrating getting family to understand something that hasn’t been done before, as most creative pursuits are (or at least thought to be). For this reason, I find it best to keep quiet about any plans still in progress. To overcome this pitfall, communicate your need to not be distracted. Careful not to spend too much time away from those you care about, though, for too much time in isolation can be counterproductive and take a serious hit on mental health. Be sure to keep all other areas of your life in check while in creative pursuit.
2. Introspection And Self Awareness
Another benefit in creating alone is you become more in-tune with your inner self (the voice in your head, per se). Even if you’re working alone in a public space, like a coffee bar, there is constantly activity going on around you. If you are looking for inspiration, this can be a great place to simply observe the natural world. On the other hand, we subconsciously monitor our behavior in public spaces to fit in with our surrounding, often due to the fear of judgement from passerbys and strangers who, in reality, couldn’t care less about what we’re doing.
When you’re in a private, quiet place (ideally somewhere you feel safe in, like your bedroom), you are able to let go. Perhaps you have a pet. You know Mr. Scruffles (who in this example is your imaginary poodle and BFF) will always love you no matter what, so you can be yourself. More importantly, you can begin to learn more about who you really are. We often put on various personas throughout the day, even around those who know us best. For some, detaching from this imaginary image of how others perceive us can be challenging. Perhaps one of the reasons is that, when you’re alone, you have to face your fears independently. This can trigger a funk of feeling like you have no one to reach out to when you encounter a problem, but that’s the point of isolation. You learn how to find solutions to your own problems and have better control over your thoughts. Once you are mentally prepared to tackle your fears, no creative pursuit is too great.
This article was written completely out of my own experiences and was meant to help people better understand introversion and some of the benefits of cutting yourself from the rest of the world to tackle major projects, creative or otherwise. I hope it has provided insight and aided in your creative process in some way. I’d be curious to know how extroverts prefer to create. Feel free to share your thoughts below.