When Our Art and our Hearts Crave Solitude

Good things happen when we are alone. It's counter-cultural to disconnect and choose to be alone in a society that is obsessed with being plugged in and accessible at every moment, but it's so good for us.

Introverts understand this intuitively, I think, craving alone time to recharge and renew their energy. Extroverts may find it more challenging and less appealing. It's necessary for us all, though.

In my first post-grad job, I was the communications coordinator of a nonprofit. I had an office to myself that I decorated with art that inspired me and tons of quotes and verses doodled on scraps of paper. I loved having that space that was totally mine, with a door I could close if I needed to focus, a window to the outside world if I needed inspiration, and touches of my personality and interests all around me. It was great. I was so creative in that space.

Later on in my role, things shifted around our office, and I moved to share space with another coworker. I then had just a desk in a long, rectangular room, with no space to decorate and no definition of my own space. I suffered in that space. 

It reminded me of something so important: We need solitude, and our creativity flourishes when we find it. We need the places where we can be alone, where we can get away from the rest of the world and focus completely on our work and what we're doing.

Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.
— Susan Cain

As an introvert, this makes so much sense to me. I've seen it to be true. My thoughts, my dreams, my ideas, my creativity, it all blossoms when I remove the distractions of other people and their questions or conversations or interruptions and just let all that's within me bubble up and out.

Group projects are popular. The corporate world seems to be all about collaboration and teamwork. I'm sure we all have been in brainstorming sessions with people crowded around a whiteboard trying to make great things happen. Sometimes, that's great. Sometimes, that works.

More often than not, I think our best ideas and our best work come from the times we spend alone. All inhibitions vanish, all distractions fade, all insecurities become irrelevant. No other voices are there to dissuade us, no other opinions alter ours, no other ideas overshadow our own, no other influences affect us. 

Solitude is a great catalyst to innovation.

Our society is all about "groupthink" strategies, collaborative spaces and teamwork whenever possible, but what if our souls, our creativity, our brains are crying out for solitude? 

We see the world around us encouraging us to be the life of the party, to be endlessly social, to go nonstop and keep your eyes glued to the glowing screen in your hand that keeps you on and connected. "If you're in the backyard sitting under a tree while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, you're more likely to have an apple fall on your head," Susan Cain says. Solitude is important to our creativity.

All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus seeking solitude. I won't make claims on if Jesus was an introvert or not, but it all goes to show that He knew how important it was to be alone. He could do better work, He could serve more fully, He could love more deeply, He could teach more powerfully, He could lead more authentically. He needed alone time to recharge and renew his energy.

Try this: imagine the life of Jesus like our lives today. What if He was addicted to technology like we are? What if He constantly had an iPhone in hand, replying to text messages and emails the second they came through? What if He was always on the go, never taking a break, refueling with Starbucks every few hours and running on little sleep? Would His ministry be what we know it was? I don't think so.

I think Jesus showed us a massively important way to live life. Regardless of whatever advances our society has made technologically or professionally or whatever, we need solitude. Sure, Jesus didn't have the distractions of iPhones and email. But there were still distractions, there were still crowds and demands and lists of things to be done. And in the midst of all of that, He sought solitude, and it made all the difference.

We say it all the time-- what would Jesus do? It's become a cliche we wear on a bracelet, but let's internalize that question. When we ask it, when we really look at His life and what He did, I think we'll find that Jesus would find time alone. He would find solitude. He was perfect, with all the power of God in His fingertips, but even He needed rest, silence, stillness, aloneness. That should undoubtedly show us we need it too. 

Find time to be alone this week. Find time to recharge in total solitude. Bring a journal or a book or that project you've been stuck on, and see what innovative, creative ideas come to you when the distractions are gone. I bet you'll find that time recharges you and inspires you.

I bet you'll find out that time of solitude was the very thing your art and your heart needed.