Why Writers Need Free Time Alone

by John Soares on June 24, 2013

Want to be happier? Want to be a more productive and creative writer?

Then you must have free time alone, free time to reconnect with who you are and what you really want in life, free time to just release and relax and recharge.

I like to spend my time alone hiking in the mountains.

Hiking alone in the mountains sparks my writing creativity. I took this shot just below Big Bear Lake in the Trinity Alps.

When you do return to your normal activities, you’ll be fresh and ready to go, you’ll have your priorities straight, and you’ll jump to get the important things done quickly and well.

This Time Alone is Just for You

You choose what you want to do — walk, read, sleep, listen to music, play music, exercise — whatever makes you happiest.

It’s crucial that you alone determine what you do, and that you be alone when you do it. You need time away from your responsibilities and from the desires and needs of others.

Note that you shouldn’t be doing any work on any freelance writing projects or other work obligations; this is time away from such activities.

3 Benefits of Free Time Alone for Writers

1. You Relax Your Mind

The hustle and bustle of your freelance writing career and your life overloads your brain. Taking a break from it all lets your mind reach a calmer state that rejuvenates you and will make you more productive when you do resume your regular activities.

2. You Relax Your Body

Tension accumulates in your muscles and nerves when you’re dealing with life’s obligations. Spending time alone allows you to let that go. You’ll return to your writing and other tasks with more energy and enthusiasm.

3. You Recharge Your Creativity

Relaxing your mind and body allows your creativity to flow. Your best writing ideas can come during your alone time.

Have a pen and paper or a recording device so you can capture them immediately: you likely won’t be able to relax completely if your mind has to hold one or more ideas until you get back to your office. I always have my digital voice recorder in my pocket to capture ideas. But don’t feel like you have to come up with ideas; just be ready for them if they do come.

Scheduling Free Time Alone

Take Time Every Day

Even if it’s just 15 minutes, make sure you fit it in.

Take Time Every Week

Give yourself 3 or 4 hours, even a whole day, on a weekly basis.

Take Time Every Year

You need at least a week a year by yourself. Do whatever you like. I typically take one or two hiking/camping trips in the mountains every summer near my Ashland, Oregon home. I also take at least one road trip; for example, this March I spent two and a half weeks hiking in southern Utah. I think of it as a personal retreat.

Schedule your time in advance and make sure all the important people affected by your absence know you’ll be gone. Keep communication with the outside world to an absolute minimum; if you can, stay away from the Internet and keep your cell phone off.

Get Support for Free Time Alone

If you live with others, you’ll likely need to negotiate your breaks. Discuss why it’s important to you, and also why it’s important for everyone in the household to do the same. Help everyone to get free time alone by having all agree to take over tasks and responsibilities for others as needed. Most people soon realize that they love their free time alone and will be more than willing to cooperate to make it happen.

Your Take

Do you get enough free time alone? If not, why not, and what can you do to change that? What do you most like to do with your free time alone?

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    { 22 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Gene Burnett June 24, 2013 at 1:28 AM

    Nice post John. I agree with all of it. I’ve always been something of a loner by nature, so my time alone is something I instinctively gravitate towards. I like the late night hours personally, when the world quiets down, my wife is asleep, and the phone doesn’t ring. I don’t usually actively search out longer periods of time, I tend to get my alone time in on a more or less daily basis, but when Samarra goes out of town, I end up with what you call a “personal retreat” anyway.
    I think for a lot of go-go-go modern people, with so much time and attention going into virtual worlds where there is little or no physical activity, time alone can actually feel uncomfortable, especially if that time alone is “off-line”. I think learning to tolerate that discomfort and later developing a genuine love of alone time is really worth the effort. I see a lot of people these days who’re busy as Hell, hyperactive mentally, with little or no depth of feeling or substance in their lives. They seem to be “checking” things all the time: Facebook, myspace, email, phones, etc. but something seems missing to me. And that something might be the kind of inner connection to their own bodies, minds, hearts and guts, that can only come from being with themselves, alone. After all, Socrates did say “Know thyself” not “know thy friend’s status updates”…

    Reply

    2 John Soares June 24, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    Gene, you do a great job of getting your alone time.

    I’m concerned about the people that are so plugged in to modern technology that they cannot fully relax, even when “alone.” When I’m on the computer, I’m doing the technology and connection thing.

    When I’m away from my computer, whether alone or out with others, I don’t have the cell phone on (usually), and I never check e-mail, etc.
    More people just need to take themselves out for a nice walk in the woods and leave all the connection stuff behind.
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course

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    3 John Soares June 24, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    And thanks for quoting Socrates: “know thyself.” I’ve been reading a lot about ancient Greek and Roman philosophy lately.

    The “know thyself” maxim has been attributed to many sources, including the ancient temple at Delphi.
    John Soares recently posted…Top 10 Ways to Generate Great Freelance Writing Ideas

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    4 Cathy Miller June 24, 2013 at 5:04 AM

    Twitter: @millercathy

    Spot on as usual, John. My daily walks are lifesavers (in so many ways). I miss my annual trips to Hawaii. Since moving in with my 90-year-old mother, those trips are harder to come by. The one trip I still take is for my 3-Day Walk for the Cure. I take a week before the Walk to return my beloved San Diego and chill. Love every minute of it.
    Cathy Miller recently posted…Tips for Killer Presentation Handouts That Leaves Them Smiling

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    5 John Soares June 24, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    Cathy, I would love to have some time alone in Hawai’i right now. I lived on Kaua’i for 3 years and I wish I could go to my favorite beach there, the one that hardly anybody knows about and that I usually had to myself.

    I’m glad you get those daily walks. I walk most places in my hometown.

    And good for you for doing the Walk for the Cure!
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course

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    6 Cathy Miller June 24, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    Twitter: @millercathy

    Thanks, John. I’m walking my 10th Walk this year in San Diego in November. :-)

    I only went to Kaua’i once (most of my trips have been to Maui, although I’ve been to the Big Island, Lana’i, Molokaʻi, and O’ahu, too). The trip to Kaua’i was the day after one of those 3-Day Walks that was my worst, in terms of foot problems. I didn’t get to really enjoy the island as much as I would like. I have to get back! :-)

    Reply

    7 John Soares June 24, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    Definitely go back to Kaua’i! It’s my favorite of the islands, although I still need to get to Moloka’i.
    John Soares recently posted…My Main Goal in Six Words

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    8 Erica June 24, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    Twitter: @JustDuckyWriter

    Right on target. I take 30-60 minutes as lunch every day during the week to myself to go walking. And I schedule a Me Day every other month to just pack up my sketchbook and wander. It is absolutely essential to my well-being.

    Luckily, I have an incredibly supportive hubs-to-be who asks only that I check in with him once in a while to let him know I’m safe. (I’ve driven to Canada on a whim.)
    Erica recently posted…Writing in the storm

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    9 John Soares June 24, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    I really like the Me Day concept. I do it also, but it tends to come in a chunk of days when I go hiking or traveling by myself.

    And it’s good that the hubs-to-be is so supportive!
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course

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    10 Dante Frizzoli June 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    I work for a writing service and we only hire freelancers who work remotely. I noticed that they value having alone time and privacy very highly. Although I didn’t have the data to back up that they were more productive, I would say that being a writer comes with the characteristic trait of being a loner perhaps. Good post, thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    11 Giancarlo June 25, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    I totally agree! Sometimes you just need a free time out of everybody to free up your mind and relax, the only problem is that sometimes people that surrounds you do not understand this.

    Reply

    12 Lori June 26, 2013 at 6:23 AM

    Twitter: @LoriWidmer

    John, I’m a huge proponent of time alone. I agree it recharges and gets the creative juices flowing. Plus it reminds us we’re alive and should take time to LIVE, not just exist.
    Lori recently posted…What Bikini Shots Have to Do With Writing

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    13 John Soares June 26, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Amen Lori!
    John Soares recently posted…Find Your Freelance Writing Niches with This New Course

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    14 Anne Wayman June 28, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Twitter: @annewayman

    You know I agree, John and I’ve learned to schedule alone time, turn off the phone and either turn off or ignore the computer. Keeps me sane.
    Anne Wayman recently posted…What does a comma do, exactly? Comma use in the modern age

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    15 Darlene with BlogBoldly June 29, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    I must be missing something because I get too much time alone!

    Probably the only drawback to what we do is the isolation. If not for my mastermind group, I don’t know what I’d do.

    ~ darlene
    Darlene with BlogBoldly recently posted…You Are an “Expert” to Someone

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    16 Liton Biswas June 29, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Twitter: @acivilengr

    You are right, John.
    Writing is the result of deep thinking and deep thinking needs free time alone. I follow a simple rule for writing – set timer for 25 min and turn off all things which may cause for distraction.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    17 Eliisa Matkustaa July 1, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    I think of the time i spend alone as a very important creative buster, even when iam not looking for inspiration its always inspirational.

    Reply

    18 Alvin July 1, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    The “free time” can be used to do more outdoor activities or some exercise. As writers, we tend to sit most of the time and there is lack of movement. It is very bad for your body, especially your lower back if your chair is not a good one. Yeah, so take the free time to relax your body and get some activity as well! ;)

    Reply

    19 John July 28, 2013 at 4:18 AM

    Twitter: @YourHDL_LDL

    Hey John,

    I have a friend who is a passionate writer and what he does is taking a month off and going on the ocean side to enjoy silence and water. He says that helps him refill his batteries for the whole next year. Not necessarily on Hawaii :)

    Reply

    20 Damien September 17, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    So true, John. Not enough alone time to just relax and think usually results in some serious burnout!

    Reply

    21 Sagar Nandwani October 12, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    Refreshing post I’ll have to have my mom read it! Most folks have no idea what it means to write, let alone doing it—audible gasp—alone.
    Sagar Nandwani recently posted…Top 10 Tips To Reduce Home Heat Loss

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    22 Lene Fogelbergq September 18, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    Twitter: @lenefogelberg

    Love this. I need to know I have alone time to really get into the text. I could not agree more.

    Reply

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