Time Alone

Taking time to be creative is even more of a prize right now

I have written before that “I want to be alone” but what if time alone is harder than ever before? We are on top of each other even more than before, living through the pandemic, mostly inside. My son’s neediness has increased unsurprisingly at this anxious time. And my need to be alone has led to even more barricading myself in to my room not entirely successfully.

Though we are getting back to some normality in the UK now, the advice is still to work from home where you can. This eases pressures on office space that has been marked out for social distance. Even with the move towards keeping 1m+ distance, my old office certainly can’t hold everyone. It also means people only use transport when they really have to and this has meant that in reality we are staying at home. And though I am grateful to have work, it is increasingly obvious that the house is small to serve as two offices and a part-time home school.

Our world has shifted slightly in the last few weeks. My son has been able to go first for a play session at a local centre and now he is back to school a few days. The effect was I suddenly found myself in the house on my own. I texted my friends immediately. “What shall I do?” I asked. Sleep came one reply. Watch trashy TV, another. Treat yourself, they all said.

I hardly knew what to do and had that desperate, urgent feeling not to waste the time that I often used to get in the last hour before school pick-up. In the end, I carried on working and ordered coffee and cake from Pret. This was an over-priced indulgence to mark a moment of treating myself. And having my meeting without interruption felt like a real luxury. The coffee incidentally spilled during it’s motorcycle ride so I definitely won’t waste money on that again. But still, it felt good to take a moment to appreciate I was finally alone.

For a first attempt, not bad but I needed to work out how to use time alone more productively. There are a few ways to tap into creativity when you need to, rather than wait for the muse. One way is to use Julia Cameron’s idea of an Artist Date so when I now know I have some time at home alone, I can plan to do something that nurtures my inner artist. You can also use the time to get outside. This can of course be an Artist Date as well but for me, just walking around the neighbourhood for twenty minutes everyday helps me remember, I have some freedom now whilst not wasting too much of that precious time on exercise.

The other thing that I have tried when I have been alone is just to start. With writing a long-form project it feels like you can’t work on it if you don’t have long. This novel, the ever-changing project of too many years, is lengthy but not finished. So instead of seeing the need to rewrite the whole thing. Right now, I can tinker at scenes. And that’s it really, I find when I can pick up where I left off, making use of small pockets of time alone.

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