News July 18, 2006

Creative isolation or loneliness?

Sand Dunes
Mark Hollander writes something that resonates with me:

It is interesting that for a field as collaborative as ours just how much time we spend in complete isolation. I look at my weekly time sheets and am amazed at just how much time I am alone, staring at a computer screen. Writers are confronted by a taunting empty document waiting to be filled. The editors I work with can spend as much as 60 hours a week alone in a dark room working on their AVIDs. Directors break out scripts in isolation. And even Producers with the million phone calls that must be made to get one simple shoot set up are still isolated. Long term happiness (not to mention mental health) requires a steady diet of human interaction. We are by nature social creatures… and when denied interaction by the demands of work or the allure of email, it takes it’s toll.

I spend a lot of time alone – thinking, writing, planning etc and there are times when I’m in one of those contemplative moods that I have to remind myself to reach out and make contact. Solitary periods are a necessary part of my work but I contrast that with being an extroverted thinker – which means that I rarely know what’s on my mind until I start talking to someone.
I don’t experience solitary times as lonely but they can sometimes be isolating so my rules (for myself) around this when I know I am going into one of these phases are:

  1. Make plans to meet friends or colleagues for lunch on a regular basis
  2. Pick up the phone and chat with a friend or colleague either about the work or about a social matter at least once a day
  3. Make sure to get out of the office for a walk, coffee or some other “outside” activity during the working day
  4. Recognise the difference between needing to talk to think and needing to talk to forget!
  5. Mind the boundary around time because it often blurrs when there’s nobody to remind me the working day is over

Do you experience working on your own as isolating or lonely? How do you manage social context in oe of those phases?

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  • Mark Hollander July 22, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Interesting suggestions on the 5 things we can do to change our pereception of being alone vs lonely. And your professional training as a therapist shows the power of choosing how to frame an issue or perception. There is power in choice.
    What advice would you offer to those individuals who work at home? They have to *force* themselves out of the house. And they sometimes report it to me as thought it were a personal short-coming. Might they consider this it a “good mental health habit” like “brushing your teeth”. There’s no judgment there. You have to do it or you get cavities. You have to go out regularly if you work at home to keep things in balance?