Monday, 15 August 2011
An interior Life? N M Browne
I read a book last night. Nothing new there you might think, but this one set me thinking about the creative process.
It’s an old book published in 1990 and written by a US online friend under the name ‘Katherine Blake.’ In it the heroine day dreams a conventional, if well thought out fantasy story which develops against the background of her daily ‘chores’. Moreover the characters she invents help her to get a grip on her mundane life: advising her on redecorating her house, sewing and baking, encouraging her to develop her musical and artistic tastes and to learn about the medieval period so that her husband gets a promotion and she gets self esteem, friends - and a more successful husband.
It was very much a product of its time and place - the domestic milieu of small town America in the eighties seemed if anything more exotic than the fantasy, but it is an interesting idea. My first thought was that I’m glad that my husband has never had to rely on the quality of my housekeeping to get a promotion, but the second was that creativity just doesn’t work like that for me. It is a very romantic idea that while washing up or listening to a boring conversation you can envisage scenes from a novel, that characters can give you sartorial advice ( just as well as mine seem to wear altogether too much chain mail which is a tad impractical for everyday) or even that the courage of your heroes can give you confidence in awkward situations. Surely that’s just wishful thinking?
And yet... honesty obliges me to admit that I do imagine my characters talking. When a book is going well they play out scenes when I’m walking the dog or lying idle in the bath. They don’t ever talk to me directly (no voices in my head no, no, none of that here!) and they are strangely silent when I’m listening to a boring conversation or needing help with cooking, but I have broken off in the middle of doing something sensible to scribble a solution to a knotty problem on a spare scrap of paper. In occasional moments of stress or when teenagers have been particularly difficult, I have even imagined myself to be a six foot female warrior who takes no prisoners and has a very big sword.
So, as often happens, my third thought is a radical departure from my first two. Maybe my friend had a point? Real life and work do get more confused than they probably should and creativity is not something that you can keep in a box, but an invasive, transformative and often inconvenient manifestation of a little bit of madness in even the most well ordered of lives...