I’ve spent the last few days painting my office. That’s not what I’m writing about here so don’t expect a rant on the pains of home decoration. (Oh, how there could be a rant. I could rant for hours on the chore of house painting.) The point I am actually going to address stems from the fact that this redecoration has meant that I’ve been forced to work downstairs, rather than at my desk. Me and my laptop have been lain out on the sofa or sat at the kitchen table. They are just as good places to write as my desk and yet I’ve found it far harder to write.
It’s not been impossible. I’ve still been able to work. It just feels more like a chore, less easy to get a decent creative flow going. I’m very aware that I’m not in my space.
Everybody who does anything creative needs their own space. Whether you’re writing, painting, composing or anything else, you need that space. That one place which is yours. It’s comfortable. You have everything you need to keep working. It could be a workshop, an office, a desk, or anything. It can be isolated and alone or surrounded by the hustle of other people. It’s different for everyone; nobody can tell you what you need to build your own space.
I’ve lived in various flats between leaving university and buying my house, and in all of them I designated a creative space. They’ve tended to be in the corner of a room, away from everything else. This isn’t so much a weird corner-fetish, but rather I had a right angled desk for years and so it only really fit in a corner. Now it’s just habit. I would love a huge desk sat in the middle of a large study, but until the day I have both of those things I will continue to be contented in the corner of the room
Your space doesn’t necessarily need to be one you build or arrange yourself. I’ve also managed to create one outside of the home. When I worked in central London I got most of my writing done during my lunch breaks. It was my routine to stop at same time every day, walk to the Cafe Nero around the corner from the office, order a coffee, and sit down for an hour’s writing. This was when I got stuff done. This was my personal time. The routine and the familiarity allowed me to separate my job from my writing. I felt comfortable in that space and this allowed me to be creative. In theory. with my laptop I could have gone anywhere. But this was my creative space.
Now I am at home all day, I recognise the same need for differentiation. My living space and writing space are the same place. I have no commute to mentally divide them and so I need one spot designated to be where I do one thing over the other. I need to create that separation.
But if you’re not comfortable then you’re not comfortable. You can’t force it. Since moving to my current house I’ve worked in the room we designated as the office. It’s really more of an office/spare room/store room (our house isn’t that big). It’s also the one room in the house my wife and I have never felt that we’ve gotten arranged quite “right” yet, and so it has undergone a number of rearrangings. My computer has always been in basically the same spot, but sometimes I’ve been able to get comfortable there and sometimes not. It’s more than simply growing accustomed to change, as sometimes we rearranged and I’ve been fine straight away while other times I have simply never grown comfortable.
It’s strange how it works. It’s the same room, but sometimes it has felt right, and other just simply has not. Everyone needs their own creative space, and no one can tell you what yours needs to be.