Climbing Down From the Ivory Tower

When you’re a creative type like me, you need solitude in order to produce your masterpieces. A lot of creative, or generally enterprising people, thrive on being alone. It gives them the space to come up with innovative ideas and act on them.

But the downside of that is crushing loneliness. You’re deprived of the easy banter and lively coffee breaks that form a natural part of the office environment. You can also become a little cut off from the latest developments in your profession. For my own part, I know it can be difficult to keep the faith when the only one there to applaud me at the end of the day is me.

When I began freelancing, I found the silence unbearably loud, so I drowned it out with the radio. But it was still difficult to give myself the kickstart I needed. Fortunately over the years, I’ve developed a few tricks to keep the flame of inspiration alive and the loneliness at bay.

I recently heard Newstalk presenter Sean Moncrieff remark in his usual quirky way that he wished he could rewind back to breakfast time, so he could have that first cup of tea. There’s no doubt that caffeine is the freelancer’s best friend and the first cup of tea is by far the sweetest. And then there’s the lure of the two cafes beside me, both serving steaming brews of classic cappuccino.

While I drink my morning cuppa, I make my list. It’s a blueprint for the day, a promise to myself of all the things I want to get done. It’s particularly useful on quiet days when I don’t have specific deadlines. On those days, I spend a little extra time on the list to ensure I stay motivated. When I feel isolation kick in, I just refer to the list and it steers me back on the right path. At the end of the day, I feel a quiet but deep sense of satisfaction that everything is ticked off.

It’s well-known that exercise gives you just the jolt you need to keep going. I can build exercise quite easily into my day, by running up and down the stairs in my apartment building once every hour. It keeps my mind fresh. For a bigger oxygen hit, I head out at lunchtime for a walk and usually manage to get some jobs done on the way.

As an internet junkie, I’ve found social networking to be a powerful weapon in beating isolation – as long as it’s used wisely. It’s reassuring to know that there’s a whole virtual community out there who are only too eager to interact with me. Using sites like Twitter and LinkedIn has enabled me to increase my contacts and stay on top of trends in the media world.

In the evenings, I turn into a social butterfly. Most of my evenings are filled with networking events, meetings of my Toastmasters and drama group and trips to the cinema or restaurants. I work faster and harder knowing that a reward awaits me at the end of the day. If I work well, I feel I’ve deserved it.

All these little incentives have brought great benefits to my work and my life. They have improved the standard of my writing, increased my circle of acquaintances and brought me out into the wider world. It’s easy to sit in splendid isolation, cocooned in your ivory tower, but it’s climbing down from it that really enables us to fulfil our potential.


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