Singing provides a true sense of lightheartedness. If I sing when I am alone, I feel wonderful. It’s freedom.—Andrea Bocelli
I realize as I start writing this morning that there is the distinct possibility that what I’m about to say may come off as complaining. I’m not. My purpose here is instructional for anyone who knows, works with, or worse, lives with a creative person. People are attracted to creatives because of their talent, which is enjoyable and frequently entertaining. Creatives can be wonderful company and even passionately romantic. You like us for some very good reasons.
Trouble comes, though, when we insist on being left alone. People who are not creative frequently don’t understand at all, and when two creative souls are paired together it can be a challenge as to who gets to be alone when and for how long.
A recent article on Creative Market explored the topic of Why Creatives Need Alone Time To Thrive and they hit the nail on the head for several points:
- Better Focus on One Single Subject
- More Positive Emotions
- Freedom from Demands of Others
- More Creativity
- Improved Memory
For creatives, being alone is when the real work gets done, even if it doesn’t look like we’re working from the outside. So much of the creative process is done inside the head. No matter whether one is a singer, plays an instrument, writes, acts, paints, or any other creative genre, we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what we want to achieve and white might be the best way to do so. We need to be free from interruptions and distractions, though, for us to be able to get through that mental process successfully.
As a pianist, in a younger existence, I spent many hours alone in a practice room. Much of that time was spent drilling, going over difficult passages again and again and again until either they were mastered or my mind was exhausted. Yet, an almost equal amount of time was spent being quiet, studying the notes and becoming aware of patterns, staring at the keyboard and thinking about how my fingers needed to move across it, hearing the music in my head so that I could be better aware of the phrasing and nuances necessary.
The quiet time didn’t end when I left the practice room, though. While the clock might dictate that it was time for my body to be elsewhere, my mind would still be occupied with the music. Someone might call to me from across the campus and I would be so totally lost in thought that I wouldn’t hear them. Creatives understood, others not so much. I was charged more than once with being stuck-up and antisocial when that was never my intention.
One aspect that non-creatives often do not, and perhaps cannot, understand is that the creative process isn’t limited to just the act of doing something. Being a photographer, using the obvious example, may seem to be limited to the act of actually taking and processing the pictures. What people don’t see are the hours spent thinking about concepts, the right setting, the best lighting, what poses might work, which model would be best, and the angles from which we might shoot. All of those considerations have to be finalized before anyone else shows up. In fact, many of those decisions need to be made before we even contact someone about shooting. All those decisions are best made alone.
The more visceral elements of the creative process do not necessarily take place where one might expect. For me, going on a long walk is one of the most creative times I have. I’ve known others who would go sailing, or working in their flower garden, or spending time with their pets. What works is different for every creative individual. What’s common across almost all of us is that we do those things alone, and yes, we are working just as hard then, perhaps even more so, than when we’re behind the camera, sitting on the piano bench, or standing behind an easel.
Please understand, when we insist on having time alone, it doesn’t mean we don’t like you or that we don’t enjoy your company. We don’t necessarily intend to be antisocial. If anything, being out and enjoying the company of others often stokes our creative imaginations. We like a good party, or a ballgame, or a day at the beach. Most of us enjoy spending that time with you; it gives us much-needed energy to keep going. Being with other people can revive our passion for what we do.
Still, when it comes down to doing the bulk of creative work, we need to be alone. Please don’t be offended. Please don’t think we’re putting you in second place. Being alone is simply a very necessary and often very welcome part of the process.
We love you for understanding and thank you for giving us the space to be who and what we are.