Nothing feels better than time and space to work. Creative people crave it.
I have an oak library table from the 1920s. It belonged to my mother’s great aunt, a rare career woman of that generation. In those days, only old maids had time for such things. She worked in a legal office. The desk came down to me. As a boy I stripped off the dark stain and applied a clear finish to bring out the natural aged golden colour. I like to set the desk with a view of the outside world. Even a busy street lined with ice and snow will do.
Fresh flowers used to seem too much a luxury. For years I wandered wistfully past the florists’ tables at the farmers’ market. A week ago Saturday I had the gall to ask. One bunch of deep red tulips cost only $2.50. I brought them home and retrieved a vase from a high shelf.
Recently I have been writing a nature journal to cover the winter season. I walk by the river and reflect, then come home to recount the experience. I habitually light a candle for every session at the desk. The amber flame casts insufficient light for the work, so some lamplight is required, yet the candle guides my psychological journey through the dark of the year.
Excessive clutter curses creativity. It comes hand in hand with depression. Garbage and papers distract us from the pure, clear sea in which we must swim to create something new.
I can give myself few gifts better than a clean kitchen. When I arrive home from the shop late afternoon, a clear work space invites me to spend 20 minutes assembling an interesting and nutritional meal. Then I can launch into my evening writing routine with gusto. More often than not, I find instead a pile of dishes with no open space to prepare anything. A single pot of pasta must suffice, with sauce from a jar. Then a few more things go on top of the pile.
A while ago osodecanela began eliminating clutter from his home. He made a habit of taking one unneeded object to the garbage every day when he went out. In March I will attempt the same process. I pass the dumpster en route to my car each morning. Some items can be recycled or donated. Shall we attempt this challenge together, you and I? We may need to address other kinds of clutter, too: temporal, virtual or psychological. Let’s start with physical junk as an icon of a deeper process to clear time and space for ourselves.
Not all clutter is bad. Natalie Goldberg wrote she mistrusts an excessively tidy work space. Sometimes we go too far in limiting our defintion of what is useful. A candle or a vase of tulips on a winter day may not seem like logical writing tools, but they offer an invitation. They dispel sterility, engage the senses, help escape from a purely rational process and facilitate a deeper level of consciousness.
With the right combination of elements, the desk feels like a magic wardrobe, a time machine, or a rabbit hole. With just a little effort, I can plunge into Earthsea, Lilliput, or even a real place in my mind’s eye, perhaps a quiet dock on my favourite faraway lake. Let us keep the windows and doors of the mind clear.