Solitude and Creativity


There are few things that make me cringe more than receiving notice of an upcoming “brainstorming” meeting. What the notice should say is, “Please join our group as we stare at each other and accomplish little.”

I’m sure there have been some great ideas that have sprung from these sessions, and there likely are constructive ways to collectively dream up a winner. But I’m an advocate for getting away from the group in order to truly stimulate creativity.

For one thing, rules of courtesy often prevent someone from pointing out the weakness in an idea. Or, the majority of the group might detest an idea but don’t want to rock the boat. (Do an online search of “the Abilene paradox” to see an example.)

I Vant To Be Alone

Creativity demands solitude. As legendary inventor/genius Nikola Tesla said, “Be alone - that is the secret of invention. Be alone - that is when ideas are born.”

From a young age students are often herded together to come up with solutions to problems, when in fact they could each be supplied the facts and then sent off on their own to work it out. The same concept applies to so-called brainstorming sessions at work; it’s better to describe the problem, and then have everyone come to a meeting after they’ve each come up with a solution.

Consider creative writing and other artistic endeavors: group lessons can serve a purpose in some respects, but a mind flourishes when left to its own devices. If you have an interest in writing, the best thing you can do is demand alone-time.

That means putting away the electronic world and submerging into your own subconscious. I enjoy socializing with my friends as much as anyone, but when it’s time to write, you won’t find another soul in my house.

Loners and Hermits

“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” Those are the words of Picasso, who knew a thing or two about creativity.

Sadly, the concept of solitude is being lost among many people. The notion of being truly alone has become alien; companionship is always just a text/tweet away. Society even stigmatizes people who want to be by themselves. Loners and hermits get a bad rap, and we often equate being alone with loneliness and sadness.

But that’s not right. Some of the most brilliant, creative minds we’ve ever known made their discoveries or rolled out their masterpieces when they were secluded from others. As Albert Einstein pointed out: “I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head.”

You don’t need a beach, though. You simply need to find a quiet place in order to stir the ingredients for great ideas.

Creativity sparkles when the outside world is sealed off, not when people gather in a conference room.

You can read more about this in my book, The Color of Your Dreams.