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How Alone Time is Critical to Reaching Creative Flow

I was given a challenge. Well no, more a request. It first was born in a joking complaint. To which I called her out and told her if she gave me a topic to write about, that I would indeed. Well she gave me a topic, and so here I am keeping up my side of the deal. And you know what? I got lucky. She gave me a topic that we’ve discussed many times before. That I love to talk + think about. So I’m greatful for her giving me something that I love to write about.

As the title implies, she (and I as well) believe that alone time is critical to reaching creative flow. To me, this means several things and I will not only explain what I think but I’ll also pull in some great quotes that really express parts of this thinking quite well.

First of all, I think that one of the most important things you can do alone is also one of the most simple and basic human needs. That need is sleep. Every since I can remember, I’ve gone to bed at night tired and woke up rested. For me, sleep has always been important but it’s also been the one constant that I can compromise on if I need more time in my day. However, as I’ve learned more than once, I can only compromise on my sleep for so long until it really starts to affect my mood, my productivity and my relationships.

Lack of sleep affects my mood because when I wake up tired, I don’t feel energized and ready to give the day my best. This leads to me being cranky later on during the day, wanting to sleep and not be very sociable. Which ultimately affects my productivity at work, my productivity on my projects, my ability to work out and be healthy and this leads to a negative effect on my relationships since if I’m not at my best for me, then I can’t be at my best for them.

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Another part of alone time means being able to make the time to do something you love to do, on your own. For me this means playing disc golf, throwing a frisbee, going for a run, getting in a workout, watching a movie, reading a book or just sitting and dreaming. If I don’t have the chance to do these on a regular basis, I feel disconnected from myself and I feel out of balance. I love all of those things because I’m good at them, I find them relaxing, I enjoy doing them and they bring balance to my life. Without balance in my life, I’m not able to tackle everything else as effectively and this also affects my productivity. Some people will say “too much of anything isn’t good” and I mostly agree with that. Sometimes you need a lot of something. Other times, not so much. But it’s all about knowing yourself and knowing what you need to create that inner balance for yourself.

Don’t let others throw that balance off. There are people who are energy takers. They will try to get you to spend time with them by making you feel bad for doing other things. That is not a good friend. A good friend will respect you and what you are passionate about. A good friend will miss you but won’t hold it against you if you haven’t seen them in a while. Stay away from those people –  you have a right to have dreams and goals and to go after them. Don’t let others hold you back. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help lift you up instead of dragging you down.

Another way that being alone is good is that many of us who are passionate + motivated will also be creative. And we will always have many ideas swirling around in our head all of the time. When we don’t have time with ourselves to sift through all of our ideas and attempt to quantify them, then those ideas won’t be able to progress past just being in our head. Only when we have alone time will we be able to figure out which ideas we’d like to spend more time on, which ideas aren’t the right ones for right now and which ones won’t really work. Being creative is about taking your skills doing different things with them. And about looking at what projects you’re currently involved in and how you can put your own touch on them, how you can take those projects to the next level and how you can do something different that noone else has done with them yet.

I found this great quote by Helen Hayes

We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.

Creating a balance in ourselves, and learning to love ourselves, comes from leaving all the distractions of everyday life behind and spending time with yourself. Just because something is a distraction doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. There are many great distractions in your life. Your kids, your sports, your spouse, your passions. But when we are alone and not letting those distractions invade our consciousness at least for a bit of time regularly, we have the ability to, as Helen says, “pull ourselves together”.

My dad really said it best once when I told him about someone in my past who “completed me”. Yes I know it was a cheesy line from a movie but bear with me. He said “that’s great, but wouldn’t it be better if you and her made 2 wholes instead of just one?” That has stuck with me almost 5 years later because he said it so simply and he was absolutely right. We can never be good for someone until we are good for ourselves. Alone time is a big key to that.

I think many of us have heard this before, and many of us believe it, but given all of the bullshit in the world today, it can be very easy to become disillusioned, lost, confused and lose faith. A big part of that are the words we use and what they mean to us. Paul Johannes Tillich said it best when he said:

Language… has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.

He’s really right though isn’t he? It’s all about how we choose to look at something. Some of us will see the glass as half empty – some of us will see it as half full.

I choose to just get up and fill the glass with water – then I don’t have to worry about the water level.

Flow. Like. Water.

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