The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Author: Olivia Laing
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by v64   2018-08-15
I recently read a nonfiction book called The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone [1], which talks about the interplay between solitude, loneliness, and creativity. The author talks about loneliness and solitude in her own life and she examines artists for whom these traits played a prominent role in their lives and their work.

Many artists have written about the necessity of loneliness and solitude for achieving original work [2]. Neuroscientists [3], psychologists [4], and philosophers [5] have expressed this as well.

Like everything else, our lives need to have a balance between socialization and solitude. I think many people suffer anxiety because society tells them they "need" to be constantly social, surrounded by others. The stigmatization of solitude is not uncommon. Introverted people encounter this on a regular basis. However, a healthy amount of solitude in our lives allows us to be ourselves with ourselves, unconcerned with the demands of others and the pressures of society. In this setting, we can truly be original and whole.


[2] "Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day." -- Ernest Hemingway

[3] "Oh comforting solitude, how favorable thou art to original thought!" -- Santiago Ramón y Cajal

[4] "In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone." -- Rollo May

[5] "That is why I go into solitude so as not to drink out of everybody’s cistern. When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think as I really think; after a time it always seems as though they want to banish me from myself and rob me of my soul and I grow angry with everybody and fear everybody." -- Friedrich Nietzsche