Famously, Virginia Woolf writes “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” People, myself included, often picture writers locked away in tiny attic rooms, scrawling away by the light of a candle. A writer friend of mine tried this method for several months and had to start wearing glasses because the candle light had so adversely affected his eyesight.
I’m not dismissing this method, and I’m sure some people write reams that way. However I personally find that staring at my own peeling wallpaper for hours on end is not the greatest source of inspiration.
I have been battling recently (a small struggle I know) with justifying the £2.40 it takes to buy a cup of tea which earns me the right to sit in a cafe all afternoon, even when that cafe is ten steps away from my front door. Now I will admit that budgeting is certainly not my strong point, but I will also defend my position.
We must, as artists, construct or inhabit spaces in which we can create productively
We must, as artists, construct or inhabit spaces in which we can create productively. For some, this is a room with a desk and a view of chimneys or a park or a skyscraper. This is a room of their own. For some, for me, this space must change regularly. If I become too familiar with a space I start to sag into it. I feel it happening. I feel the energy dissipate, until I am staring (again) at a blank page. The spaces that I work in need to be ever changing and within the world. Because how can we make art about the world if we never see it. A friend of mine sits in cafes and draws the other customers. You would be surprised how inobservant people are, how long it takes them to notice. I like to ride the tube. Public transport creates a proximity that we would rarely otherwise experience with our good friends, and yet it is deemed perfectly natural to be squashed against the stomach of a stranger and vehemently avoid eye contact or conversation. Every stop yields a new set of characters that you can study in enviable depth as they lock eyes on their phone screen. A new possible protagonist whose only clues are their clothes and the stops they get on and off at.
So whatever it takes to create that space for yourself, be it a bright red curtains, a table and a chair, or the price of a cup of tea in cafes across London, do not feel ashamed to invest in this. Do not feel ashamed to do what it takes to find the space in which you can best create.
Banner image: Emma Stevenson