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.