Thanet Writers Research Isolation and Creativity

Writer David Chitty researches the effect of exercise on isolation on behalf of Thanet Writers.

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Writers, and artists in general, have long painted the picture that isolation is an amazing boon to the creative juices. There’s that image of the artist locking themselves away to work on their next masterpiece. But is there any truth to that? If you haven’t noticed, we’ve all been isolated for a little while now and it’s having a grave impact on just about every aspect of our lives. But is it having any effect on our creativity?

Like most things in life, it’s not a straightforward answer. Luckily, however, there has been quite a lot of research into the effects of isolation on creativity. The short answer is that it isn’t good for getting the creative juices flowing but it does have its place. In order to properly create, we need to be immersed in the real world. This is where a lot of our inspiration and our influences come from, even if we aren’t aware of it. Hearing people talk, seeing how the world interacts or absorbing the imagery that we see every day, that’s what gets our creativity going. Locking yourself away doesn’t allow for that to happen.

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

Pablo Picasso.

What isolation provides us with, is the time that we need to process the information that we receive from the outside word and absorb it. It gives us the peace that’s required to focus, but we need stuff to focus on. New information needs to come into our minds to give us something that we can concentrate on, and extended periods of isolation don’t allow any scope for that to happen.

There’s also a lot of variation in the type of isolation. There’s a massive difference between staying in a nice woodland cabin away from the rest of the world and your responsibilities for a couple of weeks, and staying in a windowless box. In order to gain any benefit from isolation it has to be the right kind, but what is the right kind of isolation? Primarily, it needs to be voluntary. It’s about making sure that you can take part in social activities when you want to and about maintaining healthy relationships outside of isolation. What we’re currently experiencing is a segregation that generates many negative traits such as anxiety, depression and straining relationships due to prolonged enforced contact, to name but a few.

So, yes, isolation is beneficial to some aspects of creativity as long as it’s done correctly through choice and is limited in its duration. Long periods of being told to isolate and having very limited social outlets is not good for creativity. When this all started I was excited to finish my book. I thought I’d have all the time in the world on my hands and I’d finally be able to finish it. I’ve barely looked at it. If you are the same, don’t beat yourself up; I imagine that a lot of people are going to be in the same boat.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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