Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
—James Russell Lowell
As important as teams are, and as fun as collaboration is, ideas come from individuals, and individuals get them from somewhere. Most creatives will tell you that they get ideas and develop them alone.
Solitude is the discipline of removing yourself from the rest of life so you can open your heart and pay attention to your spiritual senses. Just like our bodies have five senses, so do our hearts. We speak of having spiritual vision, hearing from God, being inspired, and so on. All of these are ways of getting at what happens when we are sensing things, not with our bodies, but with our spirits.
Why It Matters
We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be unselfish. We want to be generous, of service, of the world. But what we really want is to be left alone. When we can’t get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves. To others, we may look like we’re there. We may act like we’re there. But our true self has gone to ground.
—Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Christians, Buddhists, and other spiritual practitioners encourage solitude as a discipline to increase inner awareness. It’s important for anyone to have times alone, times of quiet, times without distraction. But for people who create things for a living, it’s especially important to retreat, quiet the noise, and tune the antenna of the heart.
If you take your creative gift seriously, then you need regular times away for solitude. My goal is to do a major spiritual retreat once a year, and some shorter tune-ups every few months. Sometimes I don’t experience what I expected, but I’ve never come back from a retreat thinking it was a waste of time.
Be Alone Together
One thing I’ve tried lately is find a partner for my retreat. I check in with him once a day and give him updates on what I’m doing. He asks good questions, listens to my discoveries, and coaches me through my plan for the retreat. This is a great way to bring some accountability and focus to a time of extended solitude (ironic, yes, but it works).
Join Us in the Lab
Here’s an opportunity: Creativity Labs 5: Solitude/Silence/Self is a retreat for creatives coming up March 14–15, 2014 in Marriottsville, Maryland. We designed it just for this purpose—to give creative people space to see with spiritual eyes and listen with their hearts to what is happening right now. Can you join us? We have several spots left. It’s a good investment.