Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 17, 2010

Why is solitude so necessary?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:54 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I'm the only one in this wilderness... at least on this side of the camera.

My favorite minimalist blog, “Zen Habits,” contained a riveting quote by Rollo May:

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

Oh, I can be alone. I can appreciate what nature has to offer, or enjoy the comforts with which I have surrounded myself. I can lose myself in a good book, take myself for a hike or bike ride, play the piano or bake something delicious. I’m fine with ‘alone.’ I do well with it, actually.

However, in my week of wilderness camping, I found that my proximity to Moab (five splashy creek crossings plus a 35-minute drive) made it easy to ‘sneak out of’ solitude. After a couple of days without much human contact, I found myself finding reasons to drive to town just to interact with others. It would have been a good discipline to stay put and read more Dostoevsky, in all honesty.

But let’s get back to the subject line. What exactly is so positive about separateness, withdrawal, seclusion? Why is it a necessary component of creativity? Blogger Leo Babauta lists a few of the benefits he’s found from solitude:

  • time for thought
  • in being alone, we get to know ourselves
  • we face our demons, and deal with them
  • space to create
  • space to unwind, and find peace
  • time to reflect on what we’ve done, and learn from it
  • isolation from the influences of others helps us to find our own voice
  • quiet helps us to appreciate the smaller things that get lost in the roar

With which ones do you resonate? Are there more you can think of? If so, comment, please! What has been your experience of solitude?


  1. We are like harps – nearly impossible to hear in the roar of the full orchestra, but when taken into solitude, we can sing beautifully. The real trick is to learn to let the solitude play your harp.

    Comment by leroque — June 18, 2010 @ 7:12 am | Reply

  2. Solitude – good. Isolation – not so good. I often feel isolated because of my hearing loss, and that leads to feeling lonesome. If we can choose solitude (rather than having isolation thrust upon us) we can rejoice in it as a gift and a dear friend.

    Comment by Mom — June 18, 2010 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

    • That is an excellent distinction to make, Mom. I know it is tough. Solitude is usually a choice.

      Comment by kath56ryn — June 20, 2010 @ 7:49 am | Reply

  3. Solitude is good for listening; to nature, your thoughts, God.
    Of course, this also implies freedom from traffic & electronic noise along with the solitude!

    Comment by chrisyoungman — June 28, 2010 @ 11:00 am | Reply

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