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 or 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]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


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

26 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.

  6. Pentrental says:

    Great quote from Twyla Tharp to start. I agree. Many writers write in solitude, but with no purpose it becomes deafening. That’s why goals are important. There’s is a big difference between alone and lonely. Lonely is a state of mind that can affect the mood. Physical vs. metaphysical. Great videos and poem thank you. This is a great post on dealing with loneliness.

    1. Thanks for the visit and your thoughts, Pentrental.  As you say, “lonely is a state of mind.”

      Please do come again….

  7. I am so glad I came across this article. I am one who is afraid to be alone. It is only natural, since I live with five other people, and never lived on my own. Too much of silence really bothers me. 

    Reading the article has helped me to see being alone isn’t that bad. It helps you to have the time to meditate, which is something I am learning to do. It helps you to learn who you are, and become aware of your surroundings.

    Thank you for this article!

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your story, Mandy.  I am glad the post was helpful to you.  For people who are not used to being alone, solitude is a whole other adventure, I think.  It’s great you’re trying to meditate.  Daydream some, too.  That’s a really cool thing.

      Please do come again….

  8. I liked Tanya Davis’ poem and presentation. I am OK with being alone never finding myself lonely. I have a place within my home that is quiet, without the phone, or other distractions. My thoughts keep me company as I think about what crosses my mind. I feel that it is a great way to boost my creativity or solve current issues. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

    1. Hey Glen:  Thanks for the visit and for sharing your story and your thoughts.  I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again….

  9. Being alone without being lonely need a lot of work. I think I’m halfway there. I’ve started meditation and I think it helps a lot. I believe that people who aren’t afraid to be alone are the strongest. They have faced their inner demons and they’ve won. 

    Like the guy in the video says, once you ‘re okay to be alone with your self, you can collaborate with others better, as well. 

    1. Jenny, thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.  It is a truth that people who are okay with being with themselves can be great at collaborating with others, I think.  People who know how to be solitaires shine brighter, I say. 

      A stray thought:  If you can’t hang out with just yourself, you do have to wonder (or I do, anyway) WHY NOT?  Are you too cool for yourself?  Hmmm….

      Please do come again….


  10. Oh I loved the “How to be Alone” video it just captured what you are writing about perfectly

    Growing up I had 3 sisters and 2 brothers so I never had time to be alone in my own thoughts, now I am grown up I have a wife and 4 children, all boys so it’s pretty much the same having no time to be alone lol

    I love to be in my own company now and again, it gives me time to reflect on choices that I have made in life, whether they be good or bad.

    As for being lonely, I couldn’t imagine not having anybody to talk to and share things with, it’s just sad that there people out there in this day and age who are going through loneliness

    I read somewhere that being lonely is as unhealthy as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, how crazy is that!

    It can even cause people to commit suicide so something needs to be done

    If anybody is reading this right now, if you know somebody who lives alone and doesn’t have any family around, pop over and invite them around your house for a nice cuppa

    You never know, you could find a friend for life and even save theirs

    Great poem at the end, it really made me smile 🙂

    Did you write that yourself?

    1. Matthew, I do thank you for the visit and for sharing your story.  You are right:  It can be dangerous to be a lonely person.  Being able to balance alone and together is an important skill and very important for body and mind.

      I like your suggestion about reaching out to the lonely ones.  Sometimes all it really takes is giving them a smile and a “Hello, how are ya.”

      The poem is mine.  I am glad you liked it.  

      Please do come again.  

  11. I am really glad I found this article, it is amazing. I love the poem and how it grabs you and holds on until the very last word. 

    I was one of those that had to be around people all the time, but what I found out was that I was afraid to face who I really was.

     I made myself take that time to get to know me, and now I am comfortable with who I am and with being alone, it was a long hard and also necessary journey.



    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your story.  It’s wonderful that you have been able to make friends with yourself.  Cool!

      Please do come again….

  12. Barbara Heusser says:

    This is a lovely article.  So well written and thoughtful as well as thought-provoking.  Such talent portrayed here, by the author and also by the Tanya Davis in the video.  

    I don’t mind being alone.  I find I don’t often feel lonely either.  I live alone.  And the pandemic has made that even more isolating.  Sometimes I think there is something wrong with me because I don’t mind being alone.  I have friends that are always going going going.  They want me to join them.  I do.  And I have a good time.  But I am just as happy being alone.  

    I do find that I talk to myself when I am alone though.  I wonder if that means I need someone around?  

    I appreciate that you said to practice being alone with your thoughts.  I admit I am on social media too much.  With reading this article, I am challenged to sit and follow my thoughts.  I read another article that challenged me to journal (a practice I used to do, but stopped).  So tomorrow instead of waking up to social media, I will wake up to aloneness, thoughtfulness, journaling and prayer and worship.

    This article is very timely and helpful.  Your creativity has inspired me.  Thank you.

    Barbara Heusser

    1. Barbara, thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.  You already sound comfortable in your aloneness, so I’m glad the post encourages you to take the exploration of aloneness and being with your own self to another deeper level.  

      I can relate to the talking to yourself.  When I am very confused about how I feel about something, I’ll test my thinking (and feeling) about a subject by speaking the words out loud.  I look at it as making a baby spoken-poem.

      ‘Course I’ve always got a pencil and paper handy when I do that.  I divide the paper into a couple of columns and put one set of thoughts on one side, and a whole other set of thoughts on the other.  Then I play with them and work on building a third way of seeing the thing….one that makes sense to me.

      Sounding out the thoughts seems to help me get into and under the feelings I am feeling, and since I’m at least nominally working on some poem or other, all that talking to myself is legitimized or something.  

      (Probably that’s just delusional, but hey….it’s my process, and I can do what I like with it.  So, there!)

      Sometimes good stuff comes out of this style of making.  Sometimes it’s just a messy mish-mash.  Maybe you might want to try it as well.

      Please do come again.

  13. I’ve loved solitude since I was a kid and I truly value and cherish my times alone. As years go by, I look forward to moments of solitude and have set boundaries around alone time and meditation.

    I used to daydream frequently as a kid and still do, usually daily. I like the idea of daydreaming with a goal.  I think this will keep me focused on a positive outcome. I admit that prior to reading this post, I had slight feelings of guilt. But now, I’m confident I’ve been doing what right for me. Thank you so much for this

    1. Keish, I am glad this post resonated with you.  

      Please do come again.

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