Having spent most of my working life in busy London agencies, nowadays running my own business I divide my time working from my home office or hot-desking in London. As a result of this change in my workday, I noticed how my psyche had changed.
Working in London meant I got to chat with colleagues, take a walk around Soho at lunchtimes, perhaps grab a sneaky pint with a colleague after work, and generally taking in the sights, sounds and overheard conversations of the day, that would invariably fire up my imagination and get me thinking about new things, inspiring new ideas- whether for work or my personal writing projects. These seemingly innocuous daily experiences helped me to develop a deep well, from which to draw inspiration and ideas, which I would pull up and mould in to my writing or daily life.
In comparison, I found that spending whole days working alone in my home office was isolating, because of the lack of personal contact and the absence of external stimuli left me feeling dull, with less for my mind to be turning over and working with. I seemed to have lost something valuable.
A while back, I decided to do something about it by making an effort to go and see something new, to replenish my mind. After a day of meetings, instead of getting my train home from Waterloo, I walked along the South Bank and headed for the Royal Festival Hall. The annual ‘Alchemy’ festival was on- ‘Music, Dance, Literature, Comedy, Fashion, Art & Design from the UK & South Asia’.
I wandered around and the one thing that really caught my eye was a short film installation, a mish-mash of video, graphics, art, poetry, rotoscope and animation set to a score of spoken word and music- merging classical with electronics and operatic vocals. The whole, set in motion was mesmerising and while I watched, two ideas for short stories jumped out at me, screaming for action. I duly noted them down on my phone and as I walked away, I noticed a certain spring in my step.
I continued to walk along the river to the Tate Modern where I was determined to snatch some more inspiration. I had been to the Tate a couple of weeks earlier with my kids so I had already seen the permanent installations and as I walked the white corridors of the gallery, past a piece by the fascinating Dorothea Tanning, I chanced upon a video installation.
It was by an American artist- an exploration of storytelling, memory and how past events are reported in the media. There were two large screens side by side; one displaying the artist/ interviewer and the other displaying the interviewee- an American war veteran. The screens showed both of them simultaneously. The war veteran was relaying a story about an incident that occurred whilst on duty in Afghanistan, where he accidentally shot dead an innocent local. His narrative was cut with another story of his, about a strange girl he met while stationed in Germany one Christmas. I noticed the screens were double sided and as I sat on one side, there were a group of people watching the screens on the opposite side.
After the film ended, and played again on a loop, I went across to other side of the screen and listened to the whole story again, only this time it was set to images depicting imagined scenes from the story (rather than a visual of the soldier-storyteller interview). It was fascinating to compare the images I had created in my own mind while I sat watching the man talk on the other screens, compared to the images the artist had put together, based on the stories.
Having sat through the story for the second time, I left the room knowing full well I had got what I came for. The experience had given me so much to think about, that it got my mind racing. As I left the installation, I stood in front of a giant Monet, furiously tapping ideas in to my phone. In the space of a couple of hours I had managed to fire up my imagination again, ready to take in, explore and write. I rushed home and spent the evening writing a short story, which came directly from having taken time out to feed my mind.
Since then, I’ve made it a habit of mine to get out and about and see as much as I can, to feed my mind. Aside from my personal writing, it has helped me immensely in my business- WordUp Communications. Many ideas for my (soon-to-be-live) website came directly from getting out and about and seeing new things or chatting to new people. I continue to come up with ideas every day for WordUp- whether it’s new services, new ways of selling myself or whatever.
I’ve learned that we need to expose ourselves to as much disparate stimuli as we possibly can. Rich experiences, lead to a richer life and help sow the seeds of inspiration, imagination and ideas. After all it’s what sets us apart- the ability to conceptualise, step out of time and toss around unassociated ideas and abstract thoughts and to pull them back together to create something of value.
It is vital to put ourselves out there, to open up to experiences that will propel us forward- to think, imagine and create without inhibition. It can take as little as a walk in the park, a bike ride, a coffee around the corner, a party, a new film, reading a book, spending time with people, listening to music, visiting a gallery, joining a club, playing sport, striking up a conversation with a stranger, whatever it is- just do it, and if you do, you’ll find that you’ll receive more than enough material to keep you going in life. You just need to make damn sure your well is full.
Trust me, I’m a writer.