In April, I’m supposed to present a talk to a bunch of writers about sustaining creativity.
So I’m reading, reading, reading about the challenges of sustaining creativity, and I came across My Creative Space, by architect Donald M. Rattner. The subtitle is, “How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation.” One of the first premises Rattner proposes is: If your work requires creativity, then you should set up a dedicated place where that creativity routinely happens.
His point is that our minds build associations even in the absence of any causal relationship. When we suffer insomnia, one of the first pieces of advice handed out is: Don’t do anything in that bed but sleep (unless you are fortunate enough to have a lover, of course). Don’t watch the telly when you’re in bed, don’t scroll through texts, don’t read 1000-page biographies (looking at you, Grace Ann). Ditch the devices and train your brain to believe that the only thing that happens in that bed is sleep.
My house, a log farmhouse with a kitchen and bathroom added in the 1950s, was not built to be a creative residence. The intention was to make spaces for sleeping, socializing (I socialize with my tread desk in the living room), preparing and consuming food, and (now) tending to personal hygiene. That’s it. No sewing room, no play room. No game room, no library, no study, no Florida room.
I write at my kitchen table, and because it’s a small table, and my computer sits up on a special riser (thanks Graham!), I end up munching through breakfast, lunch, and dinner where I work. Or I eat standing up in the kitchen, or–in nice weather–I sit out on the porch steps to eat. I pay the bills where I work. I play cribbage where I work.
I am guessing, if I want to write another 55 novels, then I had best re-think this camping-in-the-kitchen approach to my writing space. The mind functions best with definite on-work and off-work settings, and in my current situation I’m having recess in the biology lab and trying to study math in the gym.
I can make better use of the place where I’ve been living for thirty years. I can segregate functions, and do a better job of priming my brain to be creative here, enjoy a PBJ there, and nosh on a biography over there. More than that, I’m thinking about how I’d design my ideal space. For sure it would have a lot more natural light than my house has, it would have a desk and a kitchen table (what a concept), and it would have a cozy little nook for reading the books I love so dearly.
Do your spaces–work and home, especially–function the way you need them to, or are you making do and compromising? If you could change one thing about the place where you live or work, what would it be?
To three comenters, I’ll send advanced reader e-copies of A Woman of True Honor, and those files will starting going out early this week!