Is solitude the secret to unlocking our creativity?

Hey, all you antisocial writers out there, guess what? No matter what you mother, father, siblings, and/or significant others are saying about how you should get out more and become one of the gang…you’re probably living your life just fine.

Especially if you’re a writer. Check it out:

1886

by Jory Mackay

Charles Dickens didn’t just have a great mind, he had great calves as well.

On any given day, Dickens averaged 12+ miles of walking through the lush Kent countryside or the bustling streets of Victorian London.

One particularly dreary night in October of 1857, Dickens set out to escape his increasingly disharmonious marriage, walking from his home in Central London to his house in Kent—a 30-mile trip that would eventually be repeated (in reverse) by his character Pip in Great Expectations. In fact, many moments from Dickens’ solitary walks later ended up as fodder for his work.

“There are details in Dickens’ descriptions—a window, or a railing, or the keyhole of a door—which he endows with demoniac life. The things seem more actual than things really are,” explains critic G.K Chesterton inCharles Dickens: A Critical Study.

“Indeed, that degree of realism does not exist in reality: it is the unbearable realism of a dream. And this kind of realism can only be gained by walking dreamingly in a place; it cannot be gained by walking observantly.”

Like Dickens’ walks, studies and anecdotes alike describe the creative virtues of spending time alone and inside your own mind: solitary work,being in nature, daydreaming.

But what is it that happens when we allow our minds to dive deep into our subconscious? And how does it help us break through creative blocks?

Is being alone the key to creativity?

Just what makes us ‘creative’?

To understand how creativity works, we need to first understand how creative people work.

Back in the 1960s, psychologist and pioneering creativity researcher Frank X. Barron brought together a group of the eras most high-profile creators including writers Truman Capote, William Carlos Williams, and Frank O’Connor, as well as leading architects, scientists, entrepreneurs, and mathematicians, to see if he could determine a common trait across creative individuals no matter their speciality.

What Barron found was that the most creative thinkers all exhibited certain common traits: an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for ambiguity and complexity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray (and vodka and orange juice if we’re talking about Capote); and the ability to extract order from chaos.

Describing the cluster of traits that he observed, Barron put forth that the creative genius was: “both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner, than the average person.”

80 years later, leading creativity researcher and the father of ‘flow’ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would sum up the creative individual in a similar fashion….

Read it all at Crew