"Charles Dickens kept a ‘china monkey’ on his desk without which he couldn't settle down, or how Sir Walter Scott kept his mother’s old toilette boxes and his father’s snuff box and etui-case on his desk." [extract taken from Penguin Blog #onthepage, Aislinn Hunter 'Good Company' blog post.]
My surroundings calm me, make me happy. As a troubled mind often tries to reek havoc within me and around me, I have battled for many years to find out what helps me to be me, the me I know I am and that wants to do great things, if only in my own small way.
I need order and an air of calm. Noise is fine if its music, pop, rock, country or rap, all work, but as a background to ensure I am not in total silent isolation. I need to be alone to work, but I don't want to feel alone. Ironic, maybe, but I believe this is the case for so many people. We try to find our space but then surround ourselves with the things that make us feel comfortable, at ease. Maybe that is the great outdoors itself, immersing ourselves in the surroundings of the trees and hills; others need hustle and bustle around them, the daily goings-on of life itself, seen maybe from a wide windowed coffee shop or a bench in the park. Me? I like to surround myself with what I have created, what I am proud of and what I feel represents me (in all my guises).
My ramblings today have not come from thin air, but from a blog post I read back in March on the Penguin blog #onthepage, which featured Aislinn Hunter (@) exploring the importance of writers' belongings and the things they choose to surround themselves with. What do these items, surroundings say about us?
Aislinn discusses how surroundings and objects ground us, how many authors couldn't work without certain items, trinkets, memories. Exploring the idea that an author's surroundings may provide an insight to the reader, help a reader's understanding of an author, Aislinn writes of how desks and tools enable the transition of imagination to words and images. What a wonderful image itself, vehicles for creation transporting our thoughts and ideas on to paper and screen. But it doesn't just happen through the desk or tools, what about the walls around us, or the open air of outdoor workers? Our thoughts are transitional and our surroundings and attachments help guide them to a reality.
"Alice Munro once described the early stages of her writing process by saying that she begins by staring at a wall, thinking ‘really dreamy, foundless thoughts.’ This is the double gaze: seeing something and nothing all at once, the imagined world taking shape over the lived one. Logically, the things a writer keeps on their desk often do the opposite – root a writer in a sense of the physical, bring the voyager back to a sense of self through the relationships, memories or allegories the objects stand for." [extract taken from #onthepage, Aislinn Hunter 'Good Company' blog post.]
I sit in my first floor (converted bedroom) office, gazing out the window over the tips of the climbing-frame in the play-park and beyond to the wild grass field born from landfill, and beyond to the old abbey and its swaying flag-post. Dog walkers come and go, a child wobbles on his new bike and some teenagers drag their feet and kick the dirt. Daily life pops in and out of my view, but often I am not seeing, I am thinking, drifting, my mind ticking and flitting from an idea to remembering the washing in the machine to the drawing I am trying to conjure up, back to the fact I haven't followed up on a couple of work leads... Yes, I rarely calm or still my mind, I can focus but never switch it all off.
I have learnt to take one thing at a time, plan better and organise my thoughts and activities, but none of this would matter if I didn't have the feeling of belonging, happiness when I open the door of my office. The bright giant golden and pink peacock feathers bursting off the walls and the sumptuous, mildly decadent, floor length burgundy and gold damask curtains framing my view. My little view, My lovely view of life.
If I didn't have my special place to work, the colours I love around me, the bit of humour in my decor and my complete abandonment to the rules of decoration, then I would not sit everyday with inspiration and motivation. I would be restless, I would be uncomfortable. My inner demons bouncing inside my mind, stirring up unease.
I surround myself with me. And only I can inspire myself to create.
Are surroundings important? Yes. But they do not need to be of wealth and exact design; nor do they need to make sense to anyone else; and its up to you if you are happy in your surroundings. Inside or out, the physical or the imaginary, it is your work-space, your muse for inspiration. Your surroundings are what you want them to be, to do what you want to do.