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Why Creatives Need Alone Time to Thrive

Creative Market March 31, 2021 · 4 min read

As a creative professional, there’s a good chance that you spend a lot of time alone. Whether you freelance at home or work in an office full of other people, creative work requires you to delve down deep in the corners of your mind and mine it for new ideas, which can feel like a totally isolating process (especially if you’re not an introvert). However, despite the fact that your alone time might not feel particularly enjoyable (recent studies have shown that humans hate having to be alone with their thoughts), it may just be one of the keys to unlocking some of your best ideas.

The Benefits of Being Alone

Spending time alone has some particularly noticeable benefits – especially in terms of creativity and productivity: two key assets of any creative professional.

Better Focus on One Single Subject

Despite the fact you probably have a million things to get done at once, studies have shown that human brains are just not good at multitasking. By spending time alone, however, you can zero in on one project at once – meaning you can get it done more efficiently, and at a higher quality.

More Positive Emotions

Research scientist Reed Larson spent time studying the effect of being alone on the moods of teenagers and adolescents. He found that while, in general, people didn’t necessarily enjoy spending time completely alone at the time, they ended up in a better mood down the line.

Freedom from Demands of Others

When we spend time with other people, psychologists explain that we are subject to their short-term demands. While these demands might be generally pretty low key, they can distract you from whatever work you’re focused on. Alone time allows people to refocus on their own priorities, without having to weigh them against the requests of others.

More Creativity

Collaboration can be a fun and stimulating process. But studies have shown that trying to come up with creative ideas with other people actually gets in the way of the idea generation process. There are many reasons that group brainstorming isn’t as effective as individual brainstorming: group-think, distraction, and fear of judgment (among others). So, spend time trying to come up with creative ideas alone, and you’ll probably come up with more (and better) ones.

Improved Memory

Spending time alone has been shown to boost your memory. So, during your solitary work time, you may just find that you better remember facts you’ve learned, ideas you’ve come up with, and helpful associations that you’ve made.

How to Spend Time Alone

We live in a constantly connected world, which can make it difficult to carve out time to be alone with your creative work. If you want to ensure you get some quality solitude time in, check out the following tips:

1. Set a weekly date.

You set weekly dates with friends or partners – now try setting one with yourself. Designate a chunk of time each week that you will spend alone working on creative projects, then stick to it no matter what.

2. Create a designated workspace.

Find a workspace for yourself where you can close the door. Being able to physically separate yourself from other people while you work is a great way to unlock your creative ideas.

3. Request time to work from home.

If you work at an office, discuss the possibility of working from home with your boss. Even if you are only able to work from home once every week or two, you may see a distinct boost in your creative output.

While solitude often feels like loneliness, it’s important to recognize alone time as an important step in the creative process. Creative Market creatives – do you enjoy the time you spend alone? Have you experienced any productivity or creativity benefits from solitude?

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  • Yup, totally agree. It's good to have an initial meeting with lots of people, but then let everyone think on their own. It gives you time and space to think of as many ideas as you can. Then I walk away and do something else. Let ideas brew inside your head without thinking about them. With all that information floating around your subconscious brain hopefully, inspiration hits—normally at night when I'm trying to sleep! 6 years ago
  • Yep. I really need to be alone when I'm doing creative work. I work from home & it's difficult to continue my focus once my family comes home. Simon ~ I try to write ideas down before I go to bed in hopes of putting inspiration & never ending thoughts 'to sleep' so they don't interrupt MY sleep :) 6 years ago
  • The same for me. I also loved to be alone since I am a child. And since I am working on my own as a freelancer, it becomes more and more harder to think about working in an angency again like I did before. For me that's not the most effective way to work. But on the other hand I also sometimes need to meet other people when I am stuck in a thinking process. Playing with my children, meeting friends or just being forced to talk to other people can often help to overcome a mental block. 6 years ago
  • Love this post! I think it's really important to be alone, to focus, relax and let your mind come up with ideas. I'm similar to Simon in that I like to let ideas brew in my mind without thinking about them. My main issue is finding the time to be alone creatively. It sounds daft, but if someone asks me to do something or go somewhere I don't feel like "doing some painting" or "being creative" are good excuses for not going! Am getting better though! 6 years ago
  • I do everything in this post. My work is going really well but I do feel like a crazy loner sometimes. I’ve noticed lots of designers in London rent desks in small rooms with 3 or 4 other people doing their own freelance work just a metre away. Is it easy to work in such an environment ? I normally work in a room on my own. Like I said it produces fruits, but I’m not sure if it’s the only way to produce good work. 6 years ago
  • Great post..... regards, 6 years ago
  • Alone time is so important for those creative juices to flow. I will definitely be switching off my phone, closing the door and having more Alone Time and not feeling guilty for doing so ;-) 6 years ago