Sunday, January 31, 2016

Vindication! Creativity and Clutter

All my life I have had what seemed like a natural propensity for clutter. When I lived in places where I had the luxury of a room just for sewing/knitting/writing/art, I somehow managed to keep the rest of the house relatively tidy while my work room was chaos. Now that my entire living space is used for various projects, the clutter sometimes seems ridiculous but I never do anything about it. Einstein once observed that if a cluttered desk was the sign of a cluttered mind, what was an empty desk the sign of? I love him for that.

Recently, I read an article that vindicated me. There were several points in the article that I could completely relate to—and a couple that it overlooked. The article said that creative people who work in the midst of clutter often think farther outside the box than people who live in tidy environments do. In an experiment in which subjects were asked to think of a creative use for ping-pong balls, the people working amid clutter proved to have more original ideas than those in neat spaces did. This makes sense to me.

Around the desk at which I write I have a seemingly ridiculous collection of things that I like—pictures printed out from the internet, art books, figurines people have given me, rocks and geodes, a few dolls (my favorites are a stuffed doll of retired Pittsburgh Steelers #99 Brett Keisel and an action figure of Sayid Jarrah from the old TV series Lost.) When I am writing I often stare at these things until an idea dawns. It amazes me how often I'll just sit staring for a minute and then something useful will occur to me.
Sayid & Brett

I need the stimulation. I need color. I need textures and things that trigger sensory memories. I need reminders of the things that inspire me. If my desk was tidy and my walls bare I wouldn't have these little triggers to send my mind off on new journeys. Over time, some things will be discarded and new things will be added but some things survive for years and years.

Another thing that I remind myself of is that I am the definition of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thinker. This is especially true in my sewing room. I have a corkboard over the sewing machine to which I pin swatches of fabric, pictures torn from magazines, patterns, bits of trim and lace. I tend to rummage through my fabric stash and create piles of fabrics that look appealing together. None of it makes sense to anyone else but it all makes sense to me. If I didn't have them in sight, I'm pretty sure I'd forget all about them.

Sayid Caught A Mermaid
The article said that in a study conducted by the University of Minnesota it was found that "disorderly environments encourage breaking with tradition and convention," and this settings can alter preferences, choice, and behavior. I believe this. Every now and then on social media people will post memes with pictures of something that involves a pattern and one element will be out of order—floor tile in which one is a different color, a quilt in which one block is set the wrong way, a bit of architecture in which something does not line up. Most people will respond saying that it drives them crazy. They claim that they are “so OCD that I can't stand that.” I, on the other hand, usually find that to be the most interesting thing about the picture.

The house I live in was built in the early 1700s. There are four units in the main part of the house and I have been in all of them at one time or another. The architecture includes lots and lots of wood details and is typical of the period. A couple years ago one of my neighbors invited a few folks in for tea and, while we were sitting in her living room, I noticed something odd. Most of the rooms in this house have exposed corner posts. There are 3 of them in the room I am sitting in right now. But in one of the corners of her living room there was an exposed post that curved significantly as it neared the ceiling. It looked as though it followed the natural line of the tree from which the lumber was cut. For the rest of the evening I spent more time studying that post than I did talking to people. I came home and did a bunch of Google searches, and I'm still wondering how that happened. I don't have any actual answer but there is one brewing in the back of my mind and a story seems to be forming around it.

Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

  1. Funny how our brains work, isn't it? I can't create when things are too cluttered. Stuff out of it's place just locks my brain up. Whenever I am creatively stuck, I pick up a dust cloth and start cleaning my desk. It works like magic.

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