Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Choosing Where to Work

I love writing, reading, and working in my garret, and I know how lucky I am to have this space. Bookshelves line the walls. I can see the top of the maple tree bending towards garage roofs, and inbetween the homes across the alley from us catch a glimpse of the occasional walker on the next block. When it rains, I hear it on the roof and when it gets cold, I wrap up in a shawl and pretend to be a starving, but brilliant artist. 

Lately, I have spent most of my daytime life here. Bruce says he never sees me, and true, I head up the stairs first thing in the morning and come down only for food and drink and the bathroom and when other aspects of my life require it. I need the time here since I am taking a demanding online writing course and a theology class, and I need the quiet solitude and freedom from distraction to move through the material. However, those are not the only reasons I have focused my writing and study life here in the garret.

I thought after being homebound when I broke my ankle the end of March and finally, being able to be out and about that I would overcompensate for the forced time home. I am not a hermit, and I am so happy I can enjoy a more normal and routine life once again, and at first, I did feel sprung from the physical restrictions, but for the most part I am happy to be home. Introverts often are. 

Part of the reason is that for almost a year and a half I was at the mercy of potential buyers for our home in Madison. I had a nice office in that home, too. My desk was the over nine feet long harvest table formerly our dining room table in our home at Sweetwater Farm. I could spread out on that expansive space and stack piles of books without interfering with my laptop and legal pads. Plenty of room. My current desk was once the vanity table in my walk in closet--a perfect space for hair and make-up gear, but a little limited in work space. I don't care. I am making do. I am doing that because no one else dictates how long I can be here. The potential of people walking in our home and making judgements about the space and the color choices and the use of rooms is over! A phone call to schedule a showing during my prime creative time is a thing of the past. I no longer have to pack up my laptop and notebooks and whatever else I think I may need and leave the house in the middle of a time when ideas are flowing. I revel in the fact that I can sit here in my flannel pajamas and slippers for as long as I want to on many days. Why would I leave?

Every morning Bruce leaves the house first thing in the morning and heads to his new "office," Grand Central Cafe. He takes his laptop and does his morning work while enjoying his coffee. Sometimes his good friend joins him. Sometimes our daughter is there, too.  Occasionally, he asks if I would like to join him or meet him there, but so far I like this arrangement. 

Sunday afternoon, however, I decided I needed a change. I had a notebook full of handwritten freewriting for my book project, and I needed to transcribe each piece into a computer file. Creative thinking was not involved nor was the need for quiet and stillness. In addition, I felt a need to be a writer in the world again. To feel myself part of a larger community, a visible community, even though I would not know anyone else sitting at nearby tables. I needed to eavesdrop, unconsciously, of course, on conversations about life and love, joy and sadness, the extraordinary in the ordinary. I needed to see connection --girl meets boy, women friends, families with little ones in strollers, students with bulging backpacks and headphones. I needed a different kind of energy from one I have created in my solitary garret. 

What a good idea! I spent the entire afternoon at Grand Central, which seems to be combination study hall for students at Macalester College and an extension of a workplace for others. I observed three students, each absorbed in their homework, only one on a laptop and the other two reading texts, underlining and taking notes the old-fashioned way. After an interval of 45 minutes or so, they would chat for a few minutes about their professors and their classes and worries about upcoming midterms and then they returned to their individual work. An easy, congenial rhythm. 

Not only did I finish the task I needed to do, but along the way I gathered a number of ideas for my book and noted ways to develop what I have already written. I felt stimulated. Natalie Goldberg, http://nataliegoldberg.com a huge proponent of writing in restaurants and cafe's, says in her writing classic, Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within, "…the cafe atmosphere keeps that sensory part of you busy and happy, so that the deeper, quieter part of you that creates and concentrates is free to do so. It is something like occupying a baby with tricks, while slipping the spoon full of applesauce into her mouth. Mozart used to have his wife read stories to him while he was composing for the same reason." I felt spoon fed with stimulation I didn't know I needed. 

Sometimes when I write in a cafe I pretend I am in Paris, especially if I have ordered chocolat au chaud, which is hot chocolate to all of you who are not sitting in a French cafe. Even before we planned our trip to Paris I was intrigued by a book called A Writer's Paris, A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul by creativity coach, Eric Maisel. http://ericmaisel.com I know I could write stunningly if I lived in Paris and so why not imagine myself being there. "Remind yourself that writing in Paris is a brilliant way to make meaning and that you are absolutely on track... If necessary, treat yourself to chocolate." p. 50. See why I love that book!

I probably would have finished the task I set for myself even if I had stayed in my perch at home, but I suspect on that particular day, if I had not responded the the whisper of restlessness, I would have slipped into distractions along the way.  A load of laundry, time reading the New York Times Book Review, maybe a few games of solitaire online. What I needed was a slight change--one that wouldn't take a huge effort to make happen. I needed the nudge that often comes with a different place, sounds and views, and it worked. Monday I was back in my garret and happy to be there, but my Sunday experience reminded me how important it is to listen to one's self, to become acquainted with what adds to one's growth and what speaks to one's purpose and essence. 

An Invitation
Does my experience speak to you? How do you recognize and respond to some rising restlessness within you? Is there a call for new stimulation, a slight change? I would love to know. 

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