A few years ago, Google, Facebook, Virgin Airlines, and a few other large corporations discovered a direct correlation between a person’s work environment and the quality, quantity and content of a person’s work. So over the last half decade, these corporations began inventing innovative workplace environments for their employees that feature “abnormalities” like art displays, spunky music played over loudspeakers, scents of fresh-cut flowers, and glass jars of colorful paperclips for grabs - all designed to affect the outcome of their employees’ work by stimulating their creativity and inspiring their happiness.
And those clever corporate geniuses are onto something! The environment a person finds himself in truly can alter, change, or determine the output of his creative faculties and the quality of his work. I am such a person.
Unlike the employees of Google or Facebook, I don’t work outside the home, but I do like to write, which means my creative workplace is my home… and my home is in constant, complete disarray.
A recent move, a 15-month-old son, another baby on the way, and the clamoring of my soul for silence, solitude and serenity shape my everyday life. My creative faculties are drained and I feel confused – not knowing whether I should tackle dishes, read a page of a book (that I’ve been attempting to finish for a year), play with my son, go grocery shopping, meal plan, fold laundry, clean the toilet, start a blog post, or take a nap during the short 45 min. window that my son takes his. ALL of this combines in a dreadful hubbub that deprives me of the opportunity to be the creative wizard I think I should be.
As I fought despondency one evening, I began considering how to navigate this “battlefield” and started daydreaming about living somewhere else; escaping the confounding craziness of my home life, and letting a different set of walls and surrounding scenery call to my heart and my writing.
(Let me momentarily indulge, here):
Take this Gothic revival! If I visualize myself living in this frightening beauty, I could be a kind of Charlotte or Emily Bronte – writing strange, wild tales of brusque, abusive men and musing, wistful women.
But if picture myself in this home, on the beach, I see myself writing poetry – wild, lonely and expansive in mystery as the sea is to the human eye, yet full of hope like the sunrise that comes up every morning over the ocean.
If I could claim this charming cottage for my own, I might become a fairy-tale writer – seeped in children’s stories – inspired by the cozy den I wrote in and the cup of tea in the chipped mug I drank from every morning. Perhaps the wild-life out my den window would inspire “Bambi” stories, or the shadow of the massive oak trees at dusk would animate stories of midnight riders and ghosts of nocturnal fantasies.
If I lived in this astounding castle, the dark rooms, tall turrets, breath-taking views, and overall glorious magnitude would in turn enflame my pen with flashy stories of war, desolation, chivalry, and imprisonment. And when the snowy edelweiss was blooming high on the grassy hills, tales of princesses and “Leviathan” dragons would spring into spontaneous being.
And if I took up residence in one of these charming 18th century homes in Boston or Philadelphia, its brick walls would arouse fiction of historical import and adventure, and I’d invent lovers of Paul Revere, confidants of Betsy Ross, or forgotten heroes of times gone by.
But as it is, I live in a 1990’s 2-bedroom apartment with my husband, a small child, another on the way, and lots of unruly dust mites. So what do I write now? I don’t know. There’s a big fat question mark in place of the creative confidence I used to possess.
I feel trapped in this messy “whatness” I live in; my creative faculties are either utterly absent, or totally spent in making stuffed puppy dogs eat carrots and building disgruntled toy frogs a home of blocks.
Though it’s almost impossible for me to visualize, perhaps the answer to this “creativity famine” is in embracing the “whatness;” closing my eyes to ask myself what kind of crazy stories can be cultivated from the wealth of everyday occurrences like the cheerios that maddeningly crunch beneath my feet, the toes that get stubbed on rogue board books, the messy paint swatches that gloat at me for months on end, and the clutter that saucily sneaks back out of place right after I restore it to its proper home.
Maybe I need to let the unvacuumed carpet cough up the dust of ancient wisdom, and the fingerprints on my appliances and windows spell out philosophies that my distracted and disquieted mind cannot see.
Whatever the truth of all this craziness is, I know that this is my life and my home, and I need to let my environment speak its own creative volumes to me if I am to pursue my calling as a writer. I have no windy moors to wander on, and no meadows to dance through, but I have rivers of mega-blocks to wade through, and that should be enough for me…