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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : All the Lonely People

Be Mused

All the Lonely People

Dear Muse,

For so many years I dreamed of making a living by doing what I love — my art! This dream has finally come true, and it has been a great joy. But with it comes an isolation that I am not accustomed to.

I work alone (with no money for employees) and, being a very social creature, I am desperate for human contact by the end of the day. Many of my friends and my boyfriend simultaneously need down time after an entire day of dealing with the public. We are like oil and water... — What can I do?

You may feel all alone, but Eleanor Rigby you're not. The truth is, your boyfriend and many of your friends are not nearly as lucky as you are. Maybe they love their work, but, more likely, they're working stiffs punching the clock for the Man. You, on the other hand, are free! Congratulations are in order. You are living your dream, and, as you are finding out, this is not easy.

Being entirely self-employed is often a solitary business, but that doesn't mean it has to be a lonely one. Considering the things you cannot change is your first step. Your boyfriend and friends choose to sell their time to the highest bidder, and you can't change their work schedules or their collective need for downtime. Nor should you try. Instead, consider what you can control.

If you're like most people, you haven't had much time to yourself — until now. You are, as you say, unaccustomed to the isolation, and one thing you can change is the way you view the time you're spending by yourself. "Solitude is believed to promote individuality, creativity, and self-awareness by allowing the opportunity for contemplation, self-exploration, and insight," according to a 1998 Journal of Psychology study by Ami Rokach and Heather Brock. Sociologists like to call this sort of thing "enhancing solitary skills."

Have you considered the exact cause of your loneliness? Major life changes like a divorce or a death can contribute these feelings, but did you know that good changes can too? Has attaining your goal left you feeling let down? Maybe things feel empty without the thrill of the chase. Or could it be that you've been a bit lonely all along and your new isolation merely affords you quiet and time enough to fully realize it?

Self-improvement mumbo jumbo aside, maybe yours is just plain old loneliness. In that case, you have plenty of good options.

At the top of my list is forming an artists' cooperative. Why not share your workspace with other self-employed souls? If your space isn't large enough, you might find a larger studio space to rent with one or two other artists. You can enjoy their company and save a bit on rent while you're at it. But what if you don't know anyone else to approach? You can post fliers, ask friends for referrals, or place a classified ad in the local papers to get started.

If an artists' cooperative sounds a bit too permanent, you could work in a local park or coffee shop sometimes instead (provided your art is relatively portable that is.) This way, you can at least be near some people. You might even make some new friends or sell some of your art.

In a pinch, you might try meeting your boyfriend and/or friends for lunch sometimes. And if you have any pets you might bring them along to your workspace for a little companionship. (I don't recommend getting a new pet solely for this purpose however.)

Just be patient and remember that you're still adjusting to new circumstances. So much time by yourself may make you feel desperate at first, but before long you just might wonder how you ever managed without it. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »