Back in April, I wrote a blog called The Joy and Purpose of Solitude, for which I received some positive comments by readers who related to my preference for solitude, especially when it comes to the need to create. An article in Quartz, which I mentioned in that blog, focused on how creative people understand the importance of being alone.
Recently, a second article in Brain Pickings, emphasized how important solitude is to the creative process. To paraphrase a quote by Adam Phillips in the piece, if we don’t unburden ourselves of daily noise and social strain, we can’t fully inhabit our interior life, which is the source of all art.
But I’ve discovered something since I wrote that blog. While I’ve managed to carve out more solitude for myself, it’s been a much bigger struggle to free my mind to tap into the creative part of me.
Just because I’m sitting alone in my quiet basement office, hands on the keyboard, doesn’t mean that thoughts are completely on the work at hand. There’s a lot going on in my life, as there is in almost everyone’s life, and sometimes I find it to struggle to put some of those things aside. It can be done, but I have to work at it.
There are tricks, though, many of which I’ve been using for years. For example, if I need to free my mind to focus on a particular scene I’ve been struggling to write, I’ll go for a walk, preferably near water.
Mundane household chores also help. Doing dishes, weeding the garden, folding laundry, sweeping, and vacuuming all allow me to relax my brain. It’s the main reason I’ve never hired a housekeeper. Sure, thoughts can easily stray to family and work issues, but if I start a mundane task right after I’ve been writing, the ideas and connections keep on coming for many minutes after I’ve walked away from the keyboard.
The important thing is to give yourself sufficient time to be alone. In other words, step away from social networking, put the smartphone down, and go try some non-writing activity…sports, knitting, gardening, music; housework, anything that will allow your mind to relax sufficiently to tap into the creative part of your brain. For many writers, that’s where the real magic happens.