Rilke writes often in his Letters to a Young Poet about the importance of solitude to the creative process and of the challenges we will face in protecting this space. Maybe this is harder for extroverts to manage, but I really take the need for solitude and a space of one’s own as a given. Quite aptly applied to maintaining the self in any relationship, here are his words.
The experience of loving, that now disappoints so many, can actually change and be transformed from the ground up into the building of a relationship between two human beings, not just a man and a woman. And this more authentic love will be evident in the utterly considerate, gentle, and clear manner of its binding and releasing. It will resemble what we now struggle to prepare: the love that consists of two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other.
Solitude means something different to everyone. My relationship with my husband is one in which his support and enthusiasm and willingness to listen to the doubt-trodden artist I am is unwavering. There really are times when he believes in me more than I do in myself–and he props me up gently and lovingly. So, maintaining the artist-self in my relationship works because we have maintained our independence within our interdependence.
In my situation, solitude is more about a private studio space than anything else. In order for me to realize my potential in the creative process, I need a safe zone. Safe from other voices, critiques, and prying eyes. Even harmless curiosity can zap the spirit out of a work. I need a protective space around my ideas so that they may evolve and find clarity in their own time. A place to play in my own way and to sing when I’m joyful and swear when I’m frustrated. A space that is free of explanation–to anyone. And because I never stop thinking about my works, solitude for me is sometimes just finding quiet time to contemplate. My best imagining most often happens during the early morning hours before I’m even fully awake.
I’m rereading Solitude: A Return to the Self by Anthony Storr. Originally purchased in 2001 when I had two small children in the house. At that time it was quite difficult to find the physical or the mental space in which to create. There will come the time, which has already been set in motion, for the gentle releasing of their sweet souls to the world also.