How surroundings help

Settled in (office), © 2014 Celia Her City
It’s curious to consider how surroundings help creatives in the work they do.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the wake of moving many of my old belongings to my office downtown.

I didn’t move them at first because I was sure I didn’t need them.  I even wrote a post about my old books from my school days asserting how unnecessary they were.  I was after ‘a fresh start.’ (Beware cliches.)  I would inhabit a purer, more forward-looking present by carrying only what was immediately useful into the future.  Minimalism would furnish the setting for a thoroughly professional, dynamic ‘me’.  Later, as the need arose, I would buy new things.  Those new furnishings would confirm my breakout.

Besides, my old furniture and books had always been part of my household.  They were personal things, full of youthful and other associations, that I felt were not ‘professional’ enough to furnish an office.  So, when I first leased my space, I left many of my most cherished belongings behind at home or paid to have them put into storage.  It was all very foolish.

When I tried to work in my new office surroundings, I was very uncomfortable and found it impossible to do anything.  Bereft of my old belongings, I felt vulnerable and self-conscious.  I had unwittingly deprived myself of an important source of support.  In truth, establishing a certain order around me has always been prerequisite to my writing anything.

Besides, it was unfair to demand of myself a ‘new beginning.’  That beginning had begun very long ago!  Over the decades, I had built up a sort of movable camp that I had suddenly cast off in a fit of caprice.  In truth, I hated the idea of shopping for new belongings.  Any office furniture I could afford would be extremely ugly; wouldn’t suit my aesthetic; would be made in China. Why had I put an end to all my old arrangements, when my old belongings had been equal to all my needs?

A writer settles in, © 2014 Celia Her City
After sticking it out for almost a year, I threw consistency to the winds and admitted the awful mistake that I’d made.  I changed course: the furniture left behind would have to be moved.  The things that seemed so unnecessary were actually empowering: the books from different phases of my intellectual life, the old club chair I’d read in as a child, the irrelevant items on my bulletin board.  Associated with my life in all its phases, they represent some delicate organic support.

I’m much better now that the office is filled with my old belongings.  My old books, my grandparents’ old sofa: they echo the braided episodes of love, loss, enthusiasm, and survival of the inner me.  Even if I never sit on the sofa, or open one of the books, still they entreat me to sit down and write what I please.

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