Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Creative Disruption - Lari Don

This week and last, I've been trying to write with workmen in the house. And it’s not gone very well. I haven’t written any of my current novel. I’m even struggling to concentrate on blog posts and emails.

I’ve escaped to cafes and libraries, and I've done some useful reading and research. But I haven’t done much writing, even in my favourite library.

I've also done a little bit of thinking about disruption, and its effect on creativity.

I don’t need peace and quiet to write (I once wrote a fight scene in a library that was hosting a Bookbug nursery rhyme session.) I don’t need comfort or space (I wrote my most recent picture book in a cold spider-infested shed.)

But I do need clear head-space and a clear stretch of time ahead of me. So sudden crashes (wait, what was THAT? Should I go up and see?) or irregular queries about tiling and plastering, keep knocking me out of my creative zone. And I suspect that coping with disruption of my domestic routine uses up most of the energy that I should really be directing towards my story.

So, I didn’t get much writing done this week. 

Which reminded me of a novel that I abandoned five years ago. I had written about a dozen chapters, when the story suddenly ground to a halt. I couldn’t see any further, I couldn’t work out what to write next. I didn’t even know what questions to ask of my characters… That story fell apart in the year I moved house twice. And I've never been sure if the idea wasn’t strong enough, or if the constant domestic disruption pulled me out of the story so often that eventually I couldn't find my way back in.

But now I’m fairly sure it was the house moves, not the idea. So perhaps, sometime, I might revisit that story.

And this current disruption hasn’t been all bad. When I was walking around central Edinburgh last week, to get away from the plaster dust, I had a bright shiny idea for a new picture book!

So: disruption, is it good or bad for creativity?

My experience suggests that for me, disruption doesn’t help with steady creation of an ongoing project, but it might provoke new ideas…

I wonder what other writers feel disrupts their creative process, and what supports it?

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter


Penny Dolan said...

I laughed ruefully while reading this, agreeing with all you say, Lari. Your description of a book disappearing feels all too real, though with two moves, it must have been hard to stay on track.

There's been Workmen here since guests left at the start of January. We are in the middle of the kitchen, hall & stairway decorating experience, with emergency leak-mending and electrical work for starters.

The disruption didn't interfere with doing tax returns and admin work. Emptying shelves and sorting through the herbs and spices were satisfying tasks with a poem or two attached.

However, all the mysterious bangs, crashes and the over-long silences do make it hard to let go of that sense of responsibility - or is it imaginative curiosity? - and drop into deep work. Even though there's only the decorator here now, who is really nice, tidy, quiet and sans radio, I still know he's There,and it isn't always possible to work elsewhere.

Excuses, excuses (as my father would say) but I know that whenever there's any disruption here - now and in the past - my mind becomes remarkably like how a cat behaves: constantly darting, hiding or slinking about, anxious to find a settled, comfortable place.

Wishing you settled times soon, Lari.

Andrew Preston said...

For me, a home is hardly really a home until there are some tools strewn around.

From outside, when I first looked through the front window of my current flat, my first thought was .. "What a mess...". Then, at the far end of the of the room, I spotted the imprint of a motorcycle tyre tread, halfway up the wall. I decided that this was the place for me.

That...., and when I turned round 180 degrees, some rather beautiful Somerset countryside stretched away to the horizon..