Poetry · Theater · Writing

Why the Artist Must Spend Time Alone

I’m not about the nightclubs with pulsing lights and loud music.

I’d rather not do crowded restaurants and noisy chatter.

Crowds of people I don’t know overwhelm me.

And a packed day with no rests can break me down.


Do you know what I love instead?

A perfect cup of steaming tea with a flaky scone tucked next to it—

An outdoor table at a corner café on a breezy morning—

Chatting with a kindred spirit who knows my soul well.


I love sitting by myself, staring off into space,

Pen and paper in hand, trying to capture

All the beauty around me,

From the way the light dances across the table,

To strangers passing by,

To emotions that hit in unexpected ways.


I don’t think I’ve realized

How much my senses take in

Until they’re overwhelmed

And a single comment or thought

Can bring on the weeping unannounced.

– Written on a weekend where my mind was greatly overstimulated.


Artists are people who are trying to make sense of the world. Their minds are constantly interpreting what’s going on around them so they can process it through their art, be that writing, painting, or acting. The best artists are the most intuitive. They notice the things other people don’t, and they tell it in such a way that strikes a chord with the audience.

The way they script a single line of poetry that makes tears spring to the eyes.

The way they utter a handful of lines onstage that gives you chills.

The way their fingers dance across the keys that makes you ache with unspoken memories.

The way they capture a mixture of light and darkness on canvas that speaks more volumes than words ever could.

This art is not an accident. Because these artists have their senses attuned to the world around them, they can feel the range of human emotions, and then they can breathe life into those emotions for others to see.

It’s why an audience will sit for a couple hours in a darkened theater watching a show. Or linger long next to paintings in a gallery. Or get lost in their music or books after long, exhausting days of work. We want to know we’re not alone. We want to know that our emotions are communal—that someone else has experienced the pain of heartbreak and turned it into a melody; that there is deep hurt and deep redemption and deep joy, and this is what it means to be human.

But in order to find those emotions and portray them, we, as artists, have to quiet ourselves to listen and watch. Most art is created alone—except for the communal art of theater and playing in an orchestra, but even that must be given private practice to make the performance stronger.

And this is why so many artists are introverts or have their energy drained by long periods of time with many people. They may greatly enjoy being with people, but then they need to retreat to process everything they experienced. And as they do, their great art is born.

So, if you have a friend who is on the artistic side, have patience with them when they become overstimulated and get quiet. Their minds may be retreating from all the social expectations, and they may need some time alone to process everything.

And if you are the artistic one, don’t feel badly about your need for space and quiet. Indeed, know that this time for space and quiet feeds the art you were meant to create. If you don’t make time for it, if you don’t calm your mind and sit with the silence, your best art will never come.

Spend time in the world. Have plenty of interactions with people and make dozens of observations. This is where your inspiration comes from. But then quietly take your leave, shut the door, and pull out your paints, your instrument, your notebook, your script—and breathe the human emotions to life.

When you’re finished, you will have a gift to give the waiting world—a gift that speaks to their souls in a way they never knew they needed. This is the joy of creating that our Creator has given us. May we ever use these gifts to reflect his beauty and bring all glory to him.


Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash.


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