Do You Need Privacy?


If you’re feeling stuck and it’s been a while since you’ve made anything, it can be hard to stick your neck out and try stuff in front of other people.

Even if these other people are your spouse or your kids.

Sometimes especially if these other people are your spouse or your kids.

And that’s okay.

You’re allowed to need some privacy to struggle and gnash your teeth and work through the yuck.

It’s normal to need this.

But maybe you’re worried. What if they don’t understand? What if needing that somehow hurts their feelings?

Well, they certainly might not understand why you need the privacy, and it might feel strange that you want to not share what you’re working on, especially if you usually share most everything else.

But it doesn’t have to make sense that you need to be by yourself to start making again, you just do.

And your family does want you to be happy, but they can’t read your mind.

If you don’t tell them what you need, they can’t give it to you.


If you find yourself in this quandary of needing some privacy to create but not knowing how to talk about it, I thought I’d provide some concrete suggestions in order to help you start thinking about this issue in a new way, so that you can start talking about it and move forward.

Below are some ice breaker options for broaching this topic. Would any of these work for you?

“So I’ve gotten myself all twisted up about this thing I want to do, and even though it probably makes no sense, I just need to work by myself for a little while in order to get started again–maybe even a couple of times a week…just for 20–30 minutes at first–could you watch the kids while I do that?”


“I know we always do stuff together, and I love that, but I realize I’m not making any art anymore, and for some reason, because it’s been so long, I need to struggle through it privately–I know you always support me and believe in me, but it’s like I have to get over some hump I don’t quite understand–and for some reason, I just can’t have any witnesses at the moment.”


“I realize that I want to be by myself and work on my art a little every day, but I’ve been worried that I’ll hurt your feelings if I say that–and then I realize that I’m just not making anything at all as a result. Can we talk about it?”


“I’ve been really stuck with my creativity and I’m really bummed about it. And now, at this point, I feel so rusty I think whatever I make is going to be really bad. I realize that I need to have a little time by myself a couple of times a week to get myself started again–what do you think?


“It’s hard for me to admit this because I feel silly, but your opinion matters so much to me, that I can’t make stuff in front of you right now because I’m worried you won’t think I’m talented. I know that shouldn’t matter, but it does…Sooooo, I’d like to use the upstairs guest room to work on my art stuff by myself a couple of times a week for a while without you coming in and checking it out–does that feel weird?”

and maybe for your kids:

“Here’s a timer–I’m setting it for 20 minutes. I’m going to work in my art room and I can’t be disturbed while it’s ticking–except for an emergency—and an emergency is if someone is hurt. Once the timer goes off, I’m all yours again. So if you want to talk to me, check the timer, if it’s still ticking, you need to write down what you wanted, and ask me afterward.”

What do you think? Do you struggle with this? Have you struggled with it in the past–what did you say to get yourself the privacy you need? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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Categories : Creative Process


  1. mimi says:

    I do not need actual privacy, I need lack of responsibilities or commitments. I can be in the middle of a large group of people and draw if i know no one ‘s going to say “Mimi can you help with this?” but i can be alone in my house and unable to paint because i have so many chores to do.

  2. Nan Thompson says:

    There are times, that I would love to run off and sit in the woods to just get away from everything. Take my needed items to work on, and just be creative, without an audience (or help).

    While the kids are off of school is that hardest time.. Everyone wants to be together doing things, and I do understand that…BUT.. I also need time to myself to be creative..

    I guess I’m lucky in many ways, once hubby comes in from work, we eat dinner.. then everyone pretty much does their own thing, once or twice a week.. So it gives me time to go to my studio and work.. It’s the days that I feel really creative and things are moving along well, that everyone needs a part of me…

  3. fookie says:

    I know I should just shut-up because I cannot make a contrbution. I don’t think I need privacy, but I have been alone for so many years I don’t actually know if I NEED privacy. It will be interesting to find out [once my house sells].

  4. INDEED I need privacy – to bring forth the fruit of creativity at least. I’ve always been something of a loner in my life and as a result of realizing that as I grew older, I became very protective of my “alone” time. Many times, I have to wait for an opportunity and seize upon it to have that alone time, because my life is a busy one and I practice yoga, massage, guitar, and writing. Sometimes I do visual creative projects too.

    I’ve found that integration of the creative outlets one has is important – for instance, using yoga alignment concepts in my body mechanics while administering a massage, or teaching a client how to stretch. Using my guitar as a muse for writing and vice versa.

    I get some of my best ideas while driving in my car so I take advantage of that time and tape ideas onto my iPhone’s recording device.

    When there are people around me, I draw on that energy, whatever it may look like and attempt to note its distinguishable features and maybe use it in some creative sense; but, privacy is very important for me, both to “hear” myself and to allow creativity to move.

  5. Leslie B. says:

    Privacy – Not really, as I can sketch anywhere. I do assemblages where ever I find the materials (have glue stick and sketchbook, will travel). If I need privacy, I wait til all are abed or I get up extra early.

  6. Teri says:

    Privacy is imperative for me. I have to let my mind wander far from any responsibilities. I have to let my work “speak” to me. At home, even though it just my son and I, interruptions happen. This is one reason I have invested the money in a studio outside my home. I go to my studio, lock the door, put on some music and let my imagination free….


  7. Christy says:

    Yes and no. I am lucky that I have slots of time to freely work without any interruptions. And work I do. When my family is home I enjoy if they stop in to chat with me. It doesn’t really hamper me. When I do have a problem is generally when someone wants me to stop and do something and I am in the middle of a painting. Especially when I have just placed nice fresh piles of paint on my palette and then they suddenly need me right away. Then I start wishing I had a studio outside of the house.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Yes, yes, and YESSSSS! I must have total privacy and alonness to work…..No kids running in and out, or hubby or family. Usually, esp. during the summer, my creative time is between 11pm-3am……..

  9. Laura Lynch says:

    Personally, I believe that the energy which inspires us comes from other people. Privacy, to me is like a vacuum. For me, nothing is EVER created in a vacuum.

  10. Barb says:

    I don’t need privacy. Art school and university cured me of that! I also like the feedback I get to unfinished pieces and my friends and family know they don’t have to “pull their punches”. One of the pluses is they feel like they are part of the creative process and take pride in the collaboration!
    What I would like is time!

  11. Mary Anne says:

    I do my very best work…..when my house mate goes on extended vacations. I get really NOTHING done when she is at home. jwhen i lived alone, i worked on art every single day. Now, i am lucky to work on something once a week!

    I value my privacy GREATLY! I am a loner and I love it!

  12. I prefer privacy and space, head and actual physical space so I can work without the usual interruptions and distractions. I like to be left alone in my thoughts to explore and create. I also like having the physical space to bring things out of the closets, storage bins, drawers to lay it all out and be led toward what I need to do without having anyone around to ask, “Where’s the peanut butter?”

  13. Stephanie says:

    Having my studio in my home is a recipe for frustration. After setting up my palette, mixing colors and getting settled into a piece, Hubby will call out,”Honey, come open this door for me, my hands are full.” Or my son,”Mom I can’t find my tee shirt with the giraffe on it.”
    I will get up to do whatever is asked, go downstairs, take care of whatever it was. While I am down there the phone will ring and my sister will be wanting to talk. When I get off the phone with her I notice that there is dust on the bookshelf, so go in the laundry room to get a Swiffer. In the laundry room I see piles of clothing to wash so I get a load started. Then I realize I am hungry so I go into the kitchen to get a snack and the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. I unload the dishwasher and see a beautiful Cardinal on the bird feeder, so I run get my camera. When I get beck the bird is gone but the feeder is empty so I go back into the laundry room to get bird food. I then load the wet clothes in the dryer and start another load. Thus goes my day. The next day I go back upstairs to the studio to work and my brushes are stiff and there are little insects stuck in my palette. ADD-ish? Yes. Need a place to paint away from home? Desperately!

  14. I don’t need privacy at all. I paint out in public all the time, often with people milling around to watch. I can tune out background chatter, but if people are talking to me and asking questions, that’s a different story.

  15. Sarah says:

    Oh Stephanie, I just loved what you wrote here–I totally relate and I just laughed and laughed when I got to the part about seeing a beautiful Cardinal on the bird feeder and running to get your camera. So wonderfully written–you really captured what can happen– Others get in our way, but so do we!!

  16. I am a “happy to be an” only child ad I have always required large amounts of private time. Primarily I do prefer to work alone but I also enjoy the energy that working in a group can bring. I recently joined a very small cyber group of friends who exchange ATC’s and it has really been a wonderful ignitor for me…so many ideas come to the fore from seeing what the other amazing artists are doing

  17. Wendy Beth says:

    I grew up creating with my mom so I enjoy having other people around while I am creating. I love the encouragement from the compliments I get while working. When I do shows, I always bring my supplies.

    The thing that usually holds me back is all the ‘supposed tos’ I may feel inspired to work on a project but that creativity gets stifled because I have a custom order I should be working on or my limited space is filled with other things.

  18. Nanetta Bananto says:

    I sometimes joke with my grandkids when I am getting ready to appear at a show that it is time for me to be “Nanetta Bananto”. Show Nanetta wears make-up, wears clothing that has neither holes nor stains, can paint, bead or personalize anything with an eager and curious audience. Show Nanetta carries her supplies in interesting little boxes and vessels. Show Nanetta answers questions while she works or tells her onlookers little facts about the materials.
    The other Nanetta – the one who jumps to her worktable before coffee, is often seen in multimedia stained clothes that are chosen for comfort and not fashion – she likes it quiet. She is the workhorse, the boss, the employee, the promoter, the designer. She doesn’t like you looking over her shoulder unless you are invited. She works late into the night when the doors don’t open and the phone doesn’t ring.
    So, depending on who I need to be for the day, I use both privacy and attention to create. I offer a friendly and informative window into my world until I don’t.

  19. Teri says:

    Laura Lynch wrote: “Personally, I believe that the energy which inspires us comes from other people. Privacy, to me is like a vacuum. For me, nothing is EVER created in a vacuum.”

    I think there is some confusion here, either on my part or on the part of Laura and others. I took the question to mean my creative time as in, when I am working on the idea. I need uninterrupted, undistracted time for this. Once I have the design worked out I like input as I am putting the idea together as it can change and mutate as it is “born.” During this time I don’t mind input from other creative people. In fact, I agree 100% with Laura’s statement above- which is why my studio is in an old warehouse, now converted to studios for MANY artists. As for the “energy” when I need that energy I wander….through the warehouse, into other artist’s studios, through the Art Institute, through the park….but I need that “quiet time” to take that energy and input and let it coalesce.

    No, I need quiet and concentration….time to let my thoughts flow and take form. And this is very hard to do when you have the phone ringing, computer pinging because you have a new email or kids asking what’s for dinner.

    If Laura and others can be creative and come up with/ develop ideas in the cacophany that is every day life, I envy them.

    Now once I get going on an idea, I have photos and drawings thrown up on the wall, pieces of fabric pinned up and welcome my artist friends (and non-artist friends whose opinion/input I value) into my studio….

  20. Kathleen says:

    Stephanie!! I got such a chuckle out of your post……you sound just like me….I wake up every morning, thinking “OK. TODAY is an all day art day”….BUT FIRST, I will make the beds, so i do that and go get set up in the sun room, but then realize my stomach is growling and I haven’t taken my meds and need food to do so, so I fix some breakfast. Finish that and realize sons dirty wrestling bag and contents need to be washed for practice….so down to laundry room where I see a Clean load in dryer ready to be folded…do THAT. Phone rings and it’s Grandma wanting to go out to lunch . Haven’t seen her in a week, so I go……on and on ad nauseum….B4 I know it, it’s bedtime….OY

  21. Mara Trumbo says:

    I thought leaving the hustle and bustle of Floridian life and running away to live in the hills of Tennessee would do it for me. We chose a small Victorian town with only 85 people, my darling husband built my dream home with my own 1,000 square feet well-lit studio, with its own bathroom, kitchenette and storage space. Everything was perfect I could now run away without ever leaving home. I needed privacy and now I had it, great to start with, I was in constant company of Gary and Kathwren Jenkins, Bob Ross, Susan Scheewe, Brenda Harris and all my other favotite artists whose tapes I played as inspiration and background noise whilst I did my own thing. Idyllyc situation, until I realized I needed human contact so I stared giving classes. If they could not come up the mountain to me I went to them. As much as I love solitude I love sharing my passion for painting with others more. Maybe like many crazy artists I have a split personality? I need my space, my solitude….sometimes but not all the time. I can create a mediocre painting in my quiet retreat moments but a masterpiece whilst chatting with customers in the middle of the nearby art store, GO FIGURE!

  22. When I was in my 20′s it was helpul but privacy was not necessary but a luxury. I have been designing now for
    40+ yrs. First designing misc items for Hasboro
    then my own company designing dolls.
    I own a store and create and design in between customers.
    It now comes very easy and natural designing patterns of one
    kind or another.

  23. Sydney says:

    At first I thought no, but then I realized I do need privacy, especially during those early, awkward stages of my art. If I get too much input during the early stages, I’ll get off track.

  24. Linda says:

    I need privacy. I can think, play MY music. Right now frustrated- my room is a mess, partly because someone looking for something went in there and knocked down baskets hanging from ceiling that had a lot in them and just laid them where ever, and took over some of my other spaces so room is packed. I don’t know where to start. grrrr

  25. Sandra L. says:

    I don’t have any children, so I don’t have to worry about them being around! However, I get in these moods where I wish my husband would just leave the house. Neither of us is working at the moment, and he doesn’t have much of a social life. I’m slowly learning to work while he’s in the next room, or even in the room.

    I feel weird, because it’s not that he’s critical or something. It’s more like what you said: I’m afraid he’ll be hurt if I want time alone. Even though he says it’s OK!

    I think sometimes I am just making excuses not to do my artwork.

  26. Ellary Branden says:

    I dont. I find children distracting and that is all.

  27. Beth Wheeler says:

    I don’t need privacy as much as I need QUIET!! Not only is it counter productive to have someone nearby on the phone, watching TV, playing a computer game, etc. but it disrupts the entire thought process. Then the thought thread must be reassembled and followed to the original starting point and THEN on to progress.

    This is more for writing than for designing or stitching, but it drives me over the edge when I have a deadline and someone is playing “not my kind of music” in the room. I know you love me, but PLEASE play it in your own space, not mine!

  28. shane says:

    I prefer privacy; my best work is usually done in the middle of the night. The only sounds are the hum of the computer and the rustling of bushes outside. The house and studio are quiet, the cats are down for the night, and there’s no competition of stuff to do as there is in daylight. I go into the ‘space’ faster, and my ‘flow’ is far less likely to be interrupted. My mental space for creatingis different that my mental space for interaction, I guess.

  29. Trudy says:

    I sometimes need private time to create, but sometimes paint in public with no problem. I think it depends on my confidence with the subject. I do always say “Today, my art comes first.” Then I realize I’ve already gotten up, cared for husband, dog etc. I have learned to let house go some! I get my best ideas alone in the shower…

  30. april says:

    I am in the boat where I don’t need privacy – just less distractions and more focus. I do much better when everyone has gone to bed and the phone stops ringing. Only problem is my studio is upstairs and I have to be quite. I am hoping to one day balance it all and become more productive.

  31. Teresa says:

    Oh yeah — I need privacy to hear the words – I am a writer, don’t do visual arts often. I can tell when I need some time alone when I get a funny subterranean buzz in the back of my head and realize that it’s stories and revisions and concepts that are hanging back waiting for my attention.

    Update since last week’s escape – I’ve decided on overnights in Santa Fe twice a month to give me a predictable committed time to be alone with my buzzing brain.

    I’ll let you know how that works. I’m lucky to have the option.


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