Summary of “Rilke on the Lonely Patience of Creative Work – Brain Pickings”

“The most regretful people on earth,” the poet Mary Oliver wrote in contemplating the artist’s task and the central commitment of the creative life, “Are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
That is what Rainer Maria Rilke, another great poet with a philosophical bent and uncommon existential insight, explored a century earlier in the third letter collected in his indispensable Letters to a Young Poet – the wellspring of wisdom on art and life, which Rilke bequeathed to the 19-year-old cadet and budding poet Franz Xaver Kappus.
Rilke’s first letter to his young correspondent had laid out his core ideas about what it takes to be an artist.
The patience of making art is a lonely patience – one that demands the solitude essential for creative work, be it art or science, so widely recognized by creators across time and discipline.
“Solitude, a rest from responsibilities, and peace of mind, will do you more good than the atmosphere of the studio and the conversations,” the young Louise Bourgeois counseled an artist friend in the following century, just as the poet May Sarton was exulting in her sublime ode to solitude: “There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone.”
To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life: in understanding as in creating.
Letters to a Young Poet – which also gave us Rilke on what it really means to love, the life-expanding value of uncertainty, and why we read – remains one of the most beautiful, profound, and timeless works ever composed.
Complement this particular portion with Rachel Carson on writing and the loneliness of creative work and Virginia Woolf on the relationship between loneliness and creativity, then revisit Rilke on the nature of creativity.

The orginal article.