Have you ever stood at the entrance way to an attic left cluttered and disheveled and thought about just how beautiful the space could be if someone only took the time to clear up the junk, sweep out the dust and make some space? You probably stared across the landscape of dank cardboard boxes stuffed and overflowing with the past, or moved through dusty sheets protecting furniture discarded long ago from the humiliation of a dirty surface. There was probably very little room for you to move. You stepped over boxes, or pushed between stacks of books and piles of sundries from a previous life as a thought settled into the back of your head that this space could be glorious. If only you took the time to clear up the haphazardly discarded contents and made it your own.

Or maybe for you it wasn’t an attic. It could have been a basement; or a storage shed; or another space entirely. No matter how you choose to refer to the room one thing remains constant: it has the potential for beauty, you just need to allow it the opportunity to be beautiful. Clean up the mess, throw out the shit you’ve held on to for too long and you’ve got yourself a space that is all your own…

…That attic is essentially how the mind of a writer, musician, artist or creative individual looks. Or at least that’s how it feels. When you are in the infancy of your immersion into the creative industries you find yourself bound by certain real world principles and responsibilities that can make it difficult to fully embrace your creative impulses. You need to have a roof over your head so you get a job that doesn’t really aid your creative urges. You need to be healthy so you start an exercise program. You want to be smarter or learn how to better hone your craft so you sign up to university or online courses. And of course you still want to have the luxury of a social life so you schedule events into your calendar.

Before you know it you’ve committed the creative man’s ultimate sin and quite literally scheduled yourself out of having the time and space to produce art of any form. You get busy; we all do. But unlike your peers who have to attend to one existence you’ve got two. There’s the regular every day you moving through the actions above; and there’s the creative you who is stuck in a rut desperately searching for a way out.

The inspiration and ideas to be creative don’t stop coming in those times of scheduling nightmare. In fact they come hard and fast, often blindsiding you at the most inopportune of times. You can be in a meeting at work when the ending to a scene you’ve spent weeks searching for suddenly comes to light. Or you’ll be on a date, in the gym, or stuck in traffic when a brilliant idea for a blog post or manuscript settles into your mind. If you’re lucky you’ll have a scrap of paper or notepad on hand to scribble the idea onto. But if you’re not you’re left with no other choice than to pack the idea into a cardboard box and store it in the attic of your mind. You throw it haphazardly amongst similar thoughts and there it sits untouched while you continue to deny yourself the time to create.

Then you inevitably crack. You become disengaged with reality as you yearn to become lost in your own thoughts. People say that they understand. But how can they? They don’t know what it’s like to have an attic full of cluttered ideas. The urge to produce art continues to grow inside of you until you have to step back and re-evaluate your existence and the choices you make. If you don’t you start pushing people away, fucking up at work and become increasingly bitter at yourself for consistently making such poor decisions. You need to clean out your mind. You need to make some space.

So you pick up a box and open it up. There’s a half formed idea for a novel inside. There’s promise, but it’s not great and you know that it’s the wrong time in your career to embark on a project like this. So you take the idea and make some notes in a notepad for another time and place. Then you remove it from your mind completely. In the next box you find a dreadful blogpost that was never meant to see the light of day. It has no purpose in your attic anymore so you set it alight and watch the frail paper blacken and curl. And so you move on and on; compartmentalising the ideas worth keeping, turning many boxes into all but a few. You discard anything that doesn’t feel right or is just plain shit. Before you know it the attic overflowing with discarded thoughts has been swept clean and you can even open a window and allow sunlight to spill in.

The space brings with it a clarity; a sense of clear understanding of who you are and why you fell in love with creative arts in the first place. Your attic is an area that exists solely for you. You can choose to crowd it and watch your creative inhibitions suffer. Or you can periodically clean it out and whittle the ideas and opportunities that you do have down to your very best.

As I grow older and start to realise that I’m no longer a teenager with an acid tongue and an axe to grind, I’m finding myself more and more inhibited by scheduling. I need to work. I need to be healthy. And I need to be social. But if I continuously try to find time to write and ensure that I prevent my mind from becoming cluttered then when I do manage to put pen to paper it will be the very best work that I can produce. I mean, there’s twenty four hours in a day; no matter how busy I am surely I can devote at least one of those to doing what I love.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

17 thoughts on “Space”

  1. I truly relate to your piece – my attic is still cluttered! But I make sure I do carry a pen and notepad at all times even when I go to sleep. At least now I can release some of the clutter with the blog.

  2. This is so refreshing and very illustrative. I remember many times being in traffic on the way into New York City working for MTV Networks when I was struck by a fabulous idea that just wouldn’t go away. I figured if I keep repeating it, I can commit it to memory. As I’ve experienced, that never works. Several times, I had to work my way over to the berm and get out pen and paper and write the idea down. I had started carrying a journal recently, and it was fast filling with ideas I didn’t seem to have the time to develop. Good thing is, I still have those journals. I’ve been slowly polishing them and hope to at least blog about them. Ideas are fleeting, and we have to guard them from escape.

  3. Reblogged this on Anything Under the Sun and commented:
    It is amazing how another man could simply put what’s in my mind that has been so hard to compartmentalize with words. I have tried to ask myself why do I have to write things on this before, when I have other things to be busy about and a time schedule to follow. I get stuck in the middle of reality and the space that’s been long hiding behind me. And it’s been so confusing for me since I am working and staying in a field when “technical” and objective aspect of things are needed to be considered, over feelings or over imagination.. You have definitely peeked through my space and brought sunlight to it.

    Great post. Thank you for making it feel like it is normal to devote time on these kind of thoughts.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for liking my post Everybody Has a Problem.
    Your post is certainly something that I can relate to because for many years, I felt that there was never enough time for me to work on the creative side of my life. I had a difficult job in a factory that basically took up twelve hours of my day, and by the time I came back home, it was time for a couple of beers and dinner. And then, on the weekends, all I wanted to do was space out and relax.
    In 2004, at the age of fifty-eight, I retired and began writing novels, which is something that I had always wanted to do. Since then, I’ve written thirteen novels and have uploaded them to Kindle. And the reason I’ve been so productive is that, to use your analogy, my attic is all cleaned up since I don’t have to deal with all the things that are required to survive financially.
    Is it possible to write and work at the same time? Yes, but it’s quite difficult. My advice, to someone in your position, is to think small. For instance, a short story. Spend some time thinking about it, and then write it down on a weekend–you should be able to do the first draft in one or two weekends. After that, you’ll need to edit it, but editing requires more perspiration than inspiration, and is something that you can do after you come home from work.
    It will help you to get something done and finalized. My first novel was inspired by a short story that I wrote while I was still working, but much as I wanted to, I was never able to write a novel during those dark days when I worked in a factory. However, looking back on it, I think if I had aimed a little lower, I would have achieved a lot more.
    You might find my Kindle book, How to Write an Imaginative Novel helpful. It’s only $0.99, and it really describes everything that you need to know to create a novel and upload a book to Kindle. Nowadays, I’m writing what I consider to be high-quality novels in three months, and this book goes into the process I use to create a novel–from the first step (finding compelling names for your key characters) to the last step (converting a word document to HTML and uploading it to Kindle.)
    Hope this helps…

  5. hah, i just finished cleaning out my 23 year old’s former bedroom now that he has flown the coop. It is now a clutter free, clean, guest room with an unprecedented minimalist look!

  6. What you suggest is something I definitely need to do. I need to use notepads more, take the time to sift through all that I have, make workable plans.

    Excellent article!

  7. decluttering my mind so that I can write…Yes! this is key. I have to learn to compartmentalize my thoughts so that my family demands, work demands, church demands, volunteer demands can cloud my thoughts, distract me from writing and in essences, leave me staring at blank page. So I must learn to organize and set aside boxes in the attic of my mind that do not pertain to my writing goals/projects. Spring cleaning!

  8. Hello, I am visiting you after you took the time to read my post. Thanks for that!
    As you will know from my post yesterday, I am finding it useful to schedule in an opportunity to be creative every week at my life drawing group. I am also really enjoying the writing on my blog, but finding that without a time set aside for it, it’s tricky to keep on top of it.
    All the best

  9. Thanks for liking my post. I looked you up and read this. Funny… this year I’ve started the project of sorting through the physical cupboards and boxes all over the house (not just the loft) and although there is still junk everywhere… oddly something seems to be shifting in my head and I’ve been finding space to write, at least something… So your post felt… attuned? resonant? Well, thank you for sharing it. x

  10. What a great analogy! I can totally relate. Yes, lofts are wonderful places especially when sorted, and sunlight streams through the open window. Never let that get crowded out, it’s who you are! great post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: