Freedoms Found in Isolation
Musician/Composer Baths discusses his positive experiences with isolation.
Words: Will Wiesenfeld aka Baths / Geotic
Isolation is so strangely polarized in our minds. It’s the dogma of introverts and the bane of extroverts. I think in actuality, isolation doesn’t need to be such an emotionally-infused concept. It’s just a practical part of a healthy lifestyle. Like breakfast, or exercise. Isolation can balance out the amount of time we spend being present with other people. It’s the other half of that experience: being present with yourself, which is equally important. I work and make music entirely from home so isolation is pretty integral for me. In all the different little vignettes I might picture about my current lifestyle, being by myself plays a major role, but in moderation alongside being with other people. I’m passionate about the benefits of isolation because of how much it’s helped me but I also understand it’s not the same for everyone. Even a moderate level of isolation can seem daunting if it's not something you regularly practice. A look at my positive relationship with isolation might help showcase how it can be a comfortable place for self-engagement and a welcome ally in creative freedom.
I work from home as a musician and composer, and so much of what I do is accomplished entirely by myself. I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) which can make it difficult to focus, but I’ve been comfortably medicated for more than half my life and it’s helped a great deal. I only mention this because even with medication, I have so much trouble focusing on what I do when other people are around. All my best work is done when I’m completely by myself. To me, that isolation is a form of ultimate freedom. I can experiment without judgement and bring long-winded ideas to a place where they can breathe. I experience plenty of other distractions even when I’m by myself, but I can almost factor them into my workflow, allowing for some downtime between dense recording sessions. After I make a good deal of progress on a song, I’ll watch some lightweight cartoons or hop on Twitter for a bit. Even a small amount of separation can help, making me eager to jump back into things, and feeling fresher than where I left off. When I’m about to consume any media that feels like it’ll hit me extra hard, I prefer to do it by myself so that I’m free to react without the concern of what other people might think. That anxiety is not a concern for everyone, but I can recognize the habit within myself and like to avoid it and get straight to the heart of how I feel as often as I can.
The view close to the author’s house. Finding a place where dialogue is limited helps focus creativity in isolation.
My own creativity is the most confusing thing to factor into my daily life. I am constantly inspired by other musicians and artists of all sorts, but when it comes time to make my own music it never comes to me the same way. I have to make this strange effort of just... being available for an idea. Letting it come to me, or collaging it together out of fleeting inspirations. That forced openness almost always works best when I’m alone. I can absorb inspiration from spending time with other people but when I need to think on something in earnest, I have to physically enter a space that allows that to happen. It could be sitting with my notes app open in a cafe while wearing noise-cancelling headphones (one of the most crucial creative tools for someone who gets easily distracted), maybe going on a long walk... I need to find someplace where the dialogue is limited to just myself and my thoughts. That sort of casual exploration, of getting out of the house and getting out of my head a bit, allows so much more to move through and inspire me.
The album Morning Shore (Eon Isle), like several other works by Geotic, was made during a period of forced isolation.
I think I’m so passionate about working in isolation because I find it freeing for musical ideas and endeavors when there’s no one to tell me “no”. I get to discover my own bad ideas and learn from them, or learn that seemingly bad ideas may have a place elsewhere. I’ve learned so much about my artistry this way. I feel like that self-critique (which is important for what I do) can suffer when you only work with other people. Understand that I don’t see working in isolation as the right way to be an artist or to learn more about your art, just one that has worked wonders in my own creative life.
Calm, (a huge passion of mine, if it could be deemed a passion) can be found in so many different ways, and most of my favorite routes to true calm are found when I’m on my own. I don’t regularly practice meditation (though I should), but I do a lot of meditative activities. I draw a lot of inspiration and calm from looking at gay artwork and illustration, so I have a trove of that stuff to sort through that immediately relaxes me. I’ll take long baths, watch ASMR videos, light candles… I am obsessive about finding comfort where I can and there are so many ways to hold on to that feeling when I’m alone and I can fully allow it to wash over me.
Noise-cancelling headphones offer added solace in noisy environments — a useful tool for those seeking isolation.
Isolation can be an extraordinary opportunity for balance, to help offset the amount of time we spend around other people or caught up in a busy schedule. It can be a great opportunity to be productive, but know that productivity is by no means a measure of how well you’re isolating yourself and your time. There is no right way to spend time by yourself. Isolation is just a great place to get to know yourself a bit more, in some small way, as slowly as you like and with a strong generosity. Be your own confidant. Your closest friend isn’t going anywhere.
About the author
Will Wiesenfeld is an electronic musician from Los Angeles who makes music as Baths (Anticon) and Geotic (Ghostly). He admits that his entire discography reads like “meditations on loneliness and isolation”. You can check him out on Instagram and Spotify.