Having Fun, Alone

January 21, 2013

By Amy HackworthImage by Justin Hackworth.

I’ve been working through Julia Cameron’s excellent book, The Artist’s Way, with a group of friends over the past several weeks. It’s a book about honoring creativity, with 12 weeks of essays, exercises and activities designed to foster creative growth in any medium. I’m addressing my artistic life, but I’m also hoping to infuse my parenting life with more creativity and joy. 

One of Cameron’s tenets of a full creative life is a weekly date doing something you love, or exploring something you think you’d love. The idea is to nurture yourself a little, and to play a lot. Creative blocks suddenly disappear, great projects materialize, and things come into focus, all because you’re taking time to play, to enjoy life. The caveat: this weekly playtime is solitary. It’s meant for you, and no one else. Cultivate personal fun, she says, and your creative life will flourish. Cultivate personal fun, I like to think, and your capacity to care for others increases.

Great new research is emerging about the value of both rest and play in the workplace, and I think it must be true regarding our work as parents, too. We certainly support our children in healthy play, but how about ourselves? It’s habit, I suspect, to take what’s left of the day for ourselves, instead of deliberating creating time for fun, especially solo fun. I know I’m much more likely to keep a commitment to a friend than to put time for myself on the calendar. And I’m probably overly attached to the idea of being busy. A to-do list feels purposeful and a very full to-do list can be a badge of honor, even among friends. But a solid commitment to fun — all by myself — feels somehow less responsible.

I’m encouraged by writer Katrina Kenison’s ideas about the importance of solitude, and especially love the idea that when we’re alone, we might learn things about ourselves and our lives that we wouldn’t otherwise discover. Kenison writes about her 3-year-old neighbor who’s talking to herself and her doll. “She’s enjoying her own good company — a knack, that somewhere along the line, so many of us lose.”

So, I’m dying to know. When’s the last time you really enjoyed your own good company? Have you seen the value of playing by yourself? What are your favorite ways to play? 

P.S. — Thoughts on being alone always make me think of this video.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ali lanenga January 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

i went to fashion night out in florence, italy all by myself. and surrounded by a culture and a language i didn’t understand, it was an invigorating experience. after i watched that video (the one linked in your p.s.) i knew i needed to practice being alone and attending vogues fashion night out was, in my head, my final exam to see if i had mastered being alone.

it’s a struggle, full of ins and out and ups and downs to be ok with being alone. it’s a struggle to be ok with your own company. but it’s a struggle worth working through.

i posted a few photos from my being alone final test, you can see them here if you wish. http://lanengalane.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-girl-goes-to-fashion-night-out.html


2 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Cool. I think it can be tricky to go somewhere alone when others are there in groups. Good for you, Ali. I’m sure it’s a night you were glad you didn’t miss.


3 Clarissa January 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

I often go hiking in the mountains all by myself. Many of my friends consider this weird – but it’s truly lovely. It is not only the hike itself, but also the way to and from the mountains I enjoy. I can’t take a lot of books or my iPad as I’d have to carry them up the mountains, so I just spend the time thinking and musing about whatever crosses my mind. It clears your mind. Another plus is that if you walk alone, you remain silent – I’ve seen so much more wildlife on my alone-walks than on my hikes in a noisy, lively group. I like the idea of seeing time alone as a gift and not something you have to distract yourself of. Thank you for the post!


4 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Thanks, Clarissa!


5 Cortnie January 21, 2013 at 11:49 am

I’m glad you’ve been carving out some solo play time for cultivating creativity. That is exactly what I’ve been doing lately due to a very strong urge to nest and create in this third trimester of pregnancy. I’ve found that when I have alone time I love to do yoga, draw/paint, walk around outside and take photos with film. That is so sustaining to me lately.

Enjoy your alone time, Gabrielle!



6 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I love that this is sustaining you right now. Beautiful. And what a lovely time of life…third trimester of your pregnancy.


7 shadygrove January 21, 2013 at 11:49 am

I’m just a commenting fool today, but I’m so excited to see this! I’m doing the Artist’s Way, too — for the third time, but for the first time with a group. (And writing about it on my own blog; you’ll see it if you click through my handle.) I do think the Artist’s dates — indulging yourself in general, playing in general — nurture creativity and general good human beingness by increasing positive mood. Happiness boosts creativity!


8 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Shadygrove, this is my third time through, too. Except I’ve never made it all the way through, so this time I invited some committed friends along. So fun to see you’re on the journey, too!


9 Martha Moger January 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Hmmm….I have to say that after being single for many years and then getting married and now having two very small boys, I miss time alone like anything. I never doubt the value of it for fostering creativity and a new zest for life – it’s just getting hold of it that is so tricky!


10 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Well said, Martha. Getting hold of it IS tricky!


11 Kelly January 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Last week i went to a new yoga class and juice shop by myself and had a lovely time (instead of bring a friend)…grateful when i do these type of activities so i realize it doesn’t have to be just me to experience them, i feel renewed and joyful.


12 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Hi Kelly! Yoga and juice does sound renewing and joyful. That’s the kind of thing I would typically bring a friend along for, too. But maybe not next time, after reading your comment. Thanks!


13 Giulia January 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

i got a little stressed during the holidays,with all the being at home and having family and so many around. also, i had a big project to finish and couldn’t concentrate at home.
so i went to work at a cafe in the old center of barcelona and then on a “special” walk. it definitely pushed me to do something creative. look! i made this little video http://giuliaduch.blogspot.com.es/2012/12/llufa.html


14 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm

What a great little project! I love this.


15 Tiffany January 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Thank you for writing this Amy! It is very timely for me. I have The Artist’s Way and loved it the first time I read it years ago, but really need to pick it up again and recommit. It would sure be fun to read it with friends, what a good idea. I actually think I might know some of your friends. I have seen your name and your husband’s fly around he blogs for a while now ;) I say your post is timely because I am going to Madrid with my husband next week and he will be in business meetings for a few days and I will be solo. It is funny, but I am actually looking forward to it. Of course I will be just as excited for the last few days when I will be with my husband to explore, but I am looking forward to spending some time with myself (and no screaming and begging kids– ha ha). Your post helped encourage me. So, thank you amy.


16 Amy Hackworth January 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Aww, thanks, Tiffany. I hope you have a great trip! Fun that we may have mutual friends!

Our Artist’s Way group is really flexible, so we’re meeting every couple of weeks and moving through the book not quite a week at a time. It’s a perfect pace for me. :) Most of the work is still personal, but discussing it is really interesting, and of course there’s the accountability factor. If you can find a group, I highly recommend it.


17 Sharon @ Discoveringblog January 22, 2013 at 6:02 am

I realized years ago, when I was young and all of my friends were busy with boyfriends, that there is such a freedom in doing things alone. My personality lends to worrying so much that the other person is having a good time, so there is a massive freedom for me to do things alone, and only have to worry about myself.
Not to say that I don’t enjoy company, but wandering around Greenwich Village with no one to worry about but myself was very pivotal to me. Do I want to go in this store? Sure! Now I’m done, and I’ll wander down here. Nope, I changed my mind and want to go this way. Ok, now I’m tired and want to go home.
I imagine I could learn a lot from the Artist’s Way – thanks for sharing it!


18 Lisette Wolter-McKinley January 22, 2013 at 10:16 am

Manicures and pedicures are a great way to get a little alone time while doing a little something for myself.


19 Rebekah January 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm

On Saturday I was fed up with waiting for others to include me or to coordinate schedules so on a whim I took off by myself and went to a fossil museum, shopping at Cabelas (haha), and out to lunch All. By. Myself.
It was SO FUN! I can’t believe I don’t do that more often. When I met up with friends later I was all smiles.


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