Twyla Tharp, in her book, THE CREATIVE HABIT:  Learn It and Use It For Life, says, “It’s not solitude that slays a creative person.  It’s all that solitude without a purpose.  You’re alone, you’re suffering, and you don’t have a good reason for putting yourself through that misery.  To build up your tolerance for solitude, you need a goal.”


“Alone” is a fact when there’s nobody else around.  “Lonely” is how you feel about it.  They are not the same thing.

Some people are actually autophobic (afraid to be alone).  They need people around them or they start feeling like they have disappeared.  They feel lost without at least one other person around to let them know they are not invisible.  The problem is, of course, that if you are not able to tolerate being alone, you will probably not be able to hear your own heartsong.  And if you can’t hear your own heartsong, how can you follow it?

In this YouTube Video, “How To Be Alone” was directed, shot, animated by hand and edited by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman.  The poem is performed by its Maker, Tanya Davis who is a poet, singer and songwriter.  It is a lovely piece of work.


Twyla suggests remembering how to daydream — just sitting in a room all by yourself and letting your thoughts wander wherever they will.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  When you were a kid you used to get into trouble doing this.  You’re a Big Person now; it’s allowed.

This is not the same thing as sitting meditation.  You’re not trying to empty out your mind.  You don’t want to sit restfully between thoughts.  What you’re doing is lying in wait, trying to capture the butterfly thoughts that come wandering out of your unconscious.  You’re trying to tease them forward until you can swoosh them up in your butterfly net so you can examine them more closely.

If you have problems with being alone, you have to build up your tolerance for solitude first.  Do this “quietness without loneliness” for a minute, Twyla says.  (Anybody can handle one minute of daydreaming.)  Work up to ten minutes a day of this mindless mental wondering.

Then start paying attention to your thoughts.  Try to see if a word or a picture or some other interesting thing surfaces out of all that blankness.  If not, keep on daydreaming, extending out the time until you find the length of time you need to stay in that space before something interesting pops into your head.

When an idea sneaks into your brain, get engaged with it.  Play with it, push it around.  You’ve acquired a goal to underpin this solitary activity.  You are not alone any more.  Your goal, your idea is your companion.

Says Twyla, “You are never lonely when your mind is engaged.”


Here’s a YouTube video posted by Big Think, “The Psychology of Solitude:  Being Alone Can Maximize Productivity.” In it, Scott Barry Kaufman, the co-author of WIRED TO CREATE:  Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, explains how solitude benefits and nurtures your propensity for Making.

Here’s a poem:


There are times when I must sit in the quiet by myself

Times I must be still and separate.

So many people swim through my days that

It is all I can do to keep myself intact.

Like sardines, we are packed together,

All our juices mingling as

Together we get all soft and mooshy,

Slowly falling apart.


It occurs to me that sardines

Flash in the stray sunbeams,

Cutting through the waters where they swim.

Could it be that solitude

Helps me find the oceans I can swim through,

Keeps me from drowning in other people’s needs?


Maybe that’s the Real:

Sardines congregate in crowds;

It’s just what they do.

They’re little fish, after all,

And there’s that “safety-in-numbers” thing.


“One-of-many” means chances are you can slip away

Before the big fish gets you.

(Your little-fish strategy’s success

Probably depends on placement and on happenstance:

Too close to the edge and the big guys can notice you;

Too close to the middle and a net can scoop you up.)


And, yet, in that big school of little guys

Each one swims alone,

Doing one-fish things,

Making one-fish moves.

It seems to me that solitude helps you remember that.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Surf’s Up by K. Kendall via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.

Get Social....

10 thoughts on “SOLITUDE

  1. admin1anna says:

    This is a very beautiful website. The author has captured the meaning of the difference between being alone and being lonely. As a single person I can relate to the alone part and have to admit that I celebrate it too at times. The music used in the video is very appropriate to its theme. The poem is well written and does not repeat itself making it a very interesting journey to follow with our eyes and ears.

    1. Hey anna…thank you for the visit and for your comments. Please do come again!

  2. Hello Netta,
    I am back and wanting to say that is a beautiful poem. And yes there is a big difference in being alone and being lonely. A lot of people don’t like being alone and that is a shame. I need my alone time or I will go absolutely crazy!!! That is when I decompress. You need to be comfortable with yourself and like being with you. I know I might be alone but I never feel lonely!!!

    1. Hey Carol: Welcome back. Thanks for the visit and the comment. I do appreciate it….Please come again!

  3. This is a really lovely website. I like the comparison of being alone versus being lonely. Learning to celebrate being alone rather than seeing it as a negative is key and I think you capture that beautifully. Such a thoughtful way of expressing solitude and you have an engaging way of writing which I enjoy. Keep it up!

    1. Hey Chris: Thank you for the visit and for your kind words. I am glad you enjoy the site. Please do come again!

  4. This is a very thoughtful presentation of loneliness. While I am someone who has always enjoyed being alone, and am now able to accept the reality of the present moment, I understand the struggle presented here that many experience: is it okay to be alone, or not?
    In her poem, as you do in your article, Tanya clearly demonstrates this inability to accept what is in the moment. She waffles between declaring that it is okay to be alone or to seek constantly for a distraction in yourself or other people. This is the dilemma that many face.
    In reality, accepting the conditions of the present moment is all that is required to be at peace. It is never about whether or not we are alone because our true self never is. I enjoyed this post!

    1. Hey Stella:

      Thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it. Please do come again….

  5. Wow this has touched my heart because it is solitude most of the time when I do my housekeeping job a thru solitude I have been able to listen and know my self way better , this made me grow more personally and evolve in to a better more aware human being to be capable of being alone while facing struggles and consequences.

    1. Hey Erick:

      Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I enjoy being a “solitaire” — someone comfortable with being by herself — as much as I enjoy the company of others.  Both are necessary, I think.  (I like the thought that “solitaire” is a kind of diamond setting as well.) . 

      Please do come again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)