DR. Nancy Andreasen, Neuroscientist and Psychiatrist, as well as a Ph.D in Literature, stated (The Atlantic Magazine , August 2014, “The Secrets of the Creative Brain”). “Creative people are the resources that permit civilizations to advance.” In her research, she hypothesizes that mood disorders are a great part of the psychological make up of the creative brain, and began her research with the renowned Iowa Writer’s Workshop and Kurt Vonnegut. (Although she has completed extensive longitudinal research on her subjects, her methodology and findings have been questioned.)
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of Creativity, there are three types of creativity: 1) “Person who express unusual thought, who are interesting and stimulating; 2) people who experience the world in a novel and original way … perceptions are fresh, judgements are insightful, making important discoveries that only they know about (until they write about it and people read their writings); 3) individuals who have changed our culture (adding to our culture) in some important respect.”
What happens when the creativity stops, the “flow” dwindles, and solitude turns into isolation, and goals lay by the wayside? Do writers feel an intolerable sense of emptiness while being alone? Some yes, some no, some in-between … depending on the individual’s interactions, routines, personalities, what’s happening in their life at present, and goal expectations (not to mention childhood experiences and family interactions).Creativity really has nothing, more or less, to do with loneliness. It’s the extent of solitude and how we handle that solitude that matters. Many creative people are wrapped in solitude. As Csikzentmihalyi states in his book, Flow, : “The ultimate test for the ability to control the quality of experience is what a person does in solitude, with no external demands to give structure to attention.” Do we work on distractions of the mind? Do we invite characters into our thoughts and let them stay? For how long? Then what? What happens when nothing is coming or going out? Do feelings of anxiety seep in the empty spaces? Do you feel empty? Csikzentmihalyi adds, “One can survive solitude, but only if one finds ways of ordering attention that will prevent entropy (blockage of creative flow) from destructing the mind.” Do we fill those spaces with computer games … Spider Solitaire … Angry Birds? That’s a positive alternative; you have turned your mind into concentrating on a specific task. The unconscious mind is still working while the conscious mind relaxes (and has some fun).
Structuring your time will control your mental focus. It’s when solitude is seen as an enemy … “A good enough writer must face eternity, or the lack of, each day,” as Hemingway believed, that depression and loneliness will be close at hand.