Solitary, Solitude, Solitaire

Today’s creativity musings revolve around the idea of being alone. Much of the time creativity is a solitary practice. We write by ourselves, often paint by ourselves, frequently sew by ourselves, practice instruments by ourselves. Yet the finished products are released to a wider world. It’s a strange dichotomy, isn’t it. We work in solitude. We are alone in our rooms, studios, at our desks–or we convince ourselves that we are out in the world by writing in bars and coffee shops, but ultimately, the work is done alone. 

However, in that first solitary stage, we are not really alone are we? We writers are surrounded by our characters. We inhabit their world with them and let them tell us where they want to go next. They become real to us. Sometimes they hijack the story. We begin writing with one thing in mind, but frequently, a character’s voice becomes too loud to ignore, or less frequently too soft to hear. I’ve had a minor character fight with me to be the big dog. And he’s won. I’m sure it’s the same for many of you. Diana Gabaldon author of the Outlander series said that the book became a time travel novel because Claire kept saying things that didn’t fit 1793 Scotland. She had to come from somewhere/when else. These characters we create are all around us whether we’re sitting at the keyboard, swishing on the elliptical machine, or even interacting with other “real” people at a cocktail party. This solitary pursuit, this time in solitude is peopled with our own creations and they follow us into the world at large.

I’d say the feeling is similar for the visual artist. Paintings may not necessarily be peopled, unless one is working on a portrait, but the concentration, the consumption the artist feels for the form, the hue, the darks and lights surrounds him/her even when the studio is empty of other humans. And frequently I find that on my best painting days, I “get in the zone” and the other people in the studio seem to disappear–even if just for a few minutes. That solitude in the midst of others occurs when one is most connected to one’s art. 

How about the musician? The scales and arpeggios are a solitary pursuit. Practicing a piece takes place alone in a room. I’ve sung with a choir that has brought in soloists for certain parts, and the first time all the soloists, choir, and musicians appeared together has been the dress rehearsal. Even in the choir, we would each practice our parts at home in addition to the once a week rehearsals. Yet even in our individual rehearsals we can connect with the music and the singers/musicians we will eventually join, not to mention the artists who have performed the piece in the past.

Eventually, however, the solitude is not enough. Eventually, the art must become public. We must join the other voices; we must let our “children” out into the world and hope for the best for them and for us. There will be praise; there will be critique. But eventually, there must be a sharing.

And what about solitaire? That’s an addiction that keeps us away from our solitary family! 🙂