“It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
To be able to create, an artist needs to experience fully both the stimulation of being in the world and the peace of solitude. The movement, stimulation, and passion of being connected to the people and experiences of one’s life is food for the artist. The reflective quiet times are when you digest that food.
It’s important for you as artists to not simply live through the moments of your lives but to absorb those moments into your entire being. As a part of their training, I send my students out into the world with a series of exercises to help them be more present and involved in their day-to-day activities. After each activity, they are instructed to find time to be alone, reflect, and write with specificity the emotions and thoughts they experienced as well as the associated sensations in the body. You have to have full awareness of your entire self in order to use your life in your art, and this requires a balance between experience and reflection.
In body-building, they say it’s not during the actual working out that the muscles grow, but during the periods of rest, when the torn muscles heal. It's the same with our minds and hearts. When we remove ourselves from the hustle of our daily experience, we can ruminate, learn, and grow.
Times of solitude and reflection are also a balm to our over-stimulated minds and agitated hearts. We step out of the reactive mode of daily life and re-establish a connection to ourselves by exploring how the joys and sorrows of the day have affected us mentally, emotionally, and physically. We remember to care for ourselves, drop our armor, and tend to the soft underbelly of our souls. Solitude is where we gather strength for what is ahead. This compassionate realignment allows us to go back out into the world with an artist’s open heart and mind, true to ourselves and ready to learn from everything.
Solitude is a gift. It gives you a safe space to explore more deeply and look more closely. For an artist, this is essential because great art, whether a painting, a sculpture or a performance begins it’s creation in the very private space of an open heart.
So don’t fear solitude, but instead bask in the peace and clarity it can bring. The insights that you can gain by spending time alone reflecting on your experience with the keen eye of a passionate, expansive, and caring artist are oftentimes the insights that enable you to do the best work of your life.