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How to Be Alone

The changing attitudes towards solitude

By Sara Maitland
15-minute read
Audio available
How to Be Alone: The School of Life by Sara Maitland

Today’s socially focused culture leaves us very little time to ourselves and unprepared for times when we may actually need to be alone. How to Be Alone (2014) shows us that we don’t need to be scared of solitude, and that there are many benefits and joys to be found in being alone. So don’t be afraid, go solo!

  • People interested in sociology and human behavior
  • Anyone afraid of being alone

Sara Maitland is an accomplished British novelist and feminist. She has written numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Book of Silence, her first work, and Daughter of Jerusalem, a novel that won the Somerset Maugham Award.

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How to Be Alone

The School of Life

By Sara Maitland
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
How to Be Alone: The School of Life by Sara Maitland
Synopsis

Today’s socially focused culture leaves us very little time to ourselves and unprepared for times when we may actually need to be alone. How to Be Alone (2014) shows us that we don’t need to be scared of solitude, and that there are many benefits and joys to be found in being alone. So don’t be afraid, go solo!

Key idea 1 of 9

Finding time alone will boost your creativity and self-knowledge.

Do you ever wish you had more time to yourself? These days, society puts a lot of pressure on us to stay socially active and focus on work, which means less time for ourselves. And yet, alone time can improve your personal well-being and creativity.

That’s because, first of all, spending time alone allows you to discover your real “self.”

When you’re alone, you can focus on a deeper understanding of who you are and what matters to you. Only by spending time alone, free of outside influences, can you discover these important parts of yourself.

For example, the famous author Henry David Thoreau spent over two years alone in the woods of Walden Pond rediscovering himself. This time allowed him to assess his own values and those of the society around him. All of this led to Thoreau publishing his groundbreaking book Walden in 1854.

With this kind of dedicated time alone, you can unlock and increase your creativity.

In fact, many creative people in various fields have recognized solitude as a main source of creative output.

The influential author Virginia Woolf believed that spending time alone was vital to creativity. In her 1929 book, A Room of One’s Own, she saw the lack of solitude as being linked to the relatively small number of female writers at the time. Woolf saw that females were not lacking talent, imagination or intelligence; they were lacking time alone to allow their creativity to blossom.

The link between solitude and the happiness of creative freedom can be seen throughout history.

Another example is the actress Greta Garbo. At the age of 35, after having appeared in 28 movies, Garbo decided to retire from acting and live a simple and solitary life. She continued to have an active social life, but by giving herself plenty of time alone, she was able to enjoy peace and creativity.

So make sure you schedule yourself some alone time and reap the joys of solitude.

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