In this new series of posts, On Process, we will talk a little about discovering your own creativity cycles, and how best to optimise them. We’ll start with the most basic requirement: space.
Virginia Woolf coined the term ‘A Room of One’s Own’ in her book of the same name, in which she explored creativity and feminism. Her thesis is that in order to be a serious artist, you have to have dedicated private space in which to work. While I don’t think this is entirely true – many great books have been written at kitchen tables, for instance – I think it is an important consideration, and it really does help.
These days I am lucky enough to have a room of my own.
As you can see, its a mess. Currently, it has a very nasty case of piles. (Piles of paper and junk, that is.) The fact that it has become such a dumping ground, to the extent that I am now doing most of my writing sitting downstairs on the sofa, and I’m not doing any painting at all, is an important barometer for how much value I am attaching to my own art and writing practise. In other words, not much.
One of my goals is to revamp my study. This is because I need a Room of My Own. Psychologically, I need to recognise my right to my own creative independence, and that is what my study signifies to me. I need to make a gift to my creative self of a loving and beautiful space in which to make my dreams happen. Its hard to claim that right, but I’m working on it.
You may not have the luxury of your own space, in which case, I sympathise because I spent many years in the same position, sharing a desk in the corner of our dining room with my husband. (Even though he had his own office at work – not that I’m bitter, you understand!) Still, there are ways to mark out some territory that you can call your own, a space where you feel totally free to create as you want. That may be a corner of a shared room, the luxury of an actual studio, garden shed or study, or if you are not so territorial as I am, maybe a favourite table at a local cafe where you go to write, think or journal.
Where ever you choose, consider this space as not only a private area, safe from others, but also as sacred to your art – whatever form that takes. When you go there, it should signal to your Artist Brain that it is time to create.
Light candles, perhaps, and if you are so inclined, make a little altar to attract creative energy. Surround yourself with pretty, evocative things. Get some nice stationary and writing instruments. A few pebbles can be delicious to handle and look at. Make some inspiring signs to stick up, to remind yourself that you are entitled to this, that your voice is unique and deserves to be heard. A painting that you like, objects that have emotional value for you, some nice furniture if you can afford it (I would love a comfy armchair to read in for my study), a noticeboard with inspiring images on it, wll all help to make even a small corner your own.
In this picture of my study, you can see some of the things I cherish as part of my creative process. (Sorry for the small lettering, I haven’t quite got the hang of Paint yet!)
I got the lovely chair for my birthday last year. I’d never had a special, proper chair for my home office before. It still feels like an outrageous luxury! There are fairy lights in the shape of roses around the window, which are nice when I am writing at night, as I usually prefer to. There is my collection of books about writing, and books for reference, my Image Box for inspiration, and of course, my much cherished Benedict Cumberbatch calendar, which my adored niece made by hand for me last year. On my desk, I keep a framed photograph of Virginia Woolf herself, because she is such an inspiration to me, both as a writer and as a person.
Try to carve out some personal space within your home environment to dedicate to your creativity. Even if you are only able to keep your journals in a favourite tote bag down the side of the sofa to use when you can, it still counts. It will help to enhance your creative process, and enable you to battle those critical voices that tell you your work isn’t good enough.
I’ll keep you updated on my efforts to reclaim my study from the mess and make it a place to snuggle down in to create.