I've been thinking about creativity recently – alas, not very creatively.
I'm interested in the 'where' and the 'when' of creativity rather than the 'how'.
On the 'where' I have always agreed with Woolf that a writer needs 'a room of one’s own,' but increasingly I think it is about having this mental space, headspace, whatever you choose to call that freedom from obligatory socialisation, chores, money-making labour for a limited amount of time: the physical place is less important than the mental space.
(You will note I have separated money-making labour from creativity largely because it is increasingly difficult for the latter to be the former!)
I haven’t been very productive of late and toyed with the idea of booking myself into a retreat, removing myself from the distractions of my normal life. I can picture it all very clearly. I’d pick somewhere beautiful by the water, the Lakes maybe or somewhere by the sea. It would have excellent coffee and delicious food that I would not have to buy or cook. My room would be cell like in its simplicity: whitewashed walls, polished wooden floors, but perfectly comfortable. There would be excellent wifi (for research, obviously) a supportive chair and a desk overlooking the aforementioned inspiring view. Even as I write this and conjure the place in my mind’s eye I start to panic. I cannot imagine writing so much as a shopping list in such circumstances.
My writing life has always been a negotiation between competing priorities and involved the careful deployment of advanced procrastination techniques: distraction is an essential requirement for productivity. There is less to do these days than when I had four kids at home but even now I have a hierarchy of avoidance: I would generally rather clean toilets than fill in a form, I’d rather iron fifty shirts than mark student work, but would write a poem to avoid organising my cupboards. I work best in stolen time when burdened by the guilt of not doing something else.
I am afraid of too much dedicated writing space and endless time. I need guilt and distraction, the challenge of avoidance to allow me that hyperfocus, that clear headspace where I can be free.
Creativity for me is about having just enough headspace to work and not too much more. I can work in thin slices of time in rooms full of people if my head is in the right space and no physical space on earth can help me write a word if my head and heart aren’t in it.
Looking at our local 'Gails' crammed with people working on laptops, I don't think I'm the only one who feels like this, but‘Headspace of one’s own’– doesn’t have quite the same ring to it does it?