Albert Einstein was often lonely (image source)
In the increasingly interactive, urbanised and 24-by-7 connected world, there is value in unplugging oneself from the grid to spend time alone. With social technologies and smartphones constantly connecting us to others in our social sphere, such an imposed isolation may bring us much good. Having that “pause which refreshes” is important as it allows one’s mind, body and soul to rejuvenate themselves.
Often, the greatest inspiration comes from instances of isolation, unfettered by the crowding and conforming concerns of the community. Many of the great geniuses created their pièce de résistance alone, in a place where they can focus all their intellectual and emotional energies on the task at hand. Momentarily freed from the mutterings of mundanity, their are able to weave their magic and make that masterpiece of science, art, literature or religion.I’m not advocating becoming a withdrawn social hermit of course. One does need to mingle with the rest of humanity in order to fully appreciate the contexts and nuances of one’s work, life and play. There is a time and place for tapping onto the wisdom of crowds, as well as the collective ideas, insights and emotions of one’s social and professional circles.
However, the art and science of inspiration is often wrought in quiet solitude. As a colleague has put it, that “me-time” allows one to reflect, re-strategise and re-prioritise the ordeals and demands of modern day existence.
Naturally, some view going on vacations as a time of social and physical retreat. While holidays do have a recuperative effect, they are often structured for relaxation rather than creation. One often tends to soak in the sights, sounds, scents and sensations of a foreign land – it is more receiving than giving.
What I’m proposing instead is the taking of short solitary breaks – at the office, at home, or anywhere else one happens to be – in order to build and develop something. This can be as long as a day, or as short as an hour (anything shorter may be less effective).
During this magic hour (or two or three), you can focus intensively on a specific issue, project or problem. Study, dissect, scribble, analyse and draw if you wish. Look up all the references that you can find and write down those which are relevant. Do not let any external “noise” affect your train of thought, and be mindful of switching of all communication and online devices – yes, that includes your mobile, laptop, iPAD, line phone and anything else.
If you can’t find a quiet place where you are, look for one somewhere and see if you can get permission to use it (let’s face it, most of us work for bosses). If you’re working on a personal project, speak to your loved ones and tell them that you do need that time and space to formulate and shape. I believe that most would understand that need.
In an age of megacities, global villages, Blackberries, wireless internet and an endless choice of physical and digital social gathering points, it is easy to go with the human flow. Don’t be swept away by the endless waves of humanity. Rather, find that inner sanctum to focus, formulate and finish your next magnum opus.