Sympathetic And Practical Magics

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018-12-18 13:00:00 No comments

Busy week, not much time to post. Random thought time.

It's hard not to be foolishly romantic about certain things, like the workspaces or utensils of great artists. A museum for a great author might have her desk, her typewriter, her favorite fountain pen. These days, you use a keyboard for a few years and you toss it when the CTRL key breaks off, to say nothing of the computer it's attached to. Will we place Jonathan Franzen's infamously un-networked PC under glass, or erect a display case with the floppies for George R.R. Martin's copy of WordStar? Maybe Philip K. Dick's manual Olympia, or even the IBM Selectric he switched to later on so he could binge-write his books all the more efficiently?

In Japan there is now a museum devoted to author Sōseki Natsume, at one of his former addresses, complete with a reconstruction of his workspace. (I aim to check it out when I visit Japan one of these years.) A younger version of me would have been drawn to the idea of recreating such a space on my own as a kind of sympathetic magic. He used this pen, and wrote on this paper, so if I do that then a soupçon of his spirit will enter me.

I often think one absolute measure of a creative person's progress is how readily they can stand on their own two feet and leave absolutely everything else behind. In the beginning, maybe we all want or need a touch of that sympathetic magic. There's no sin in it. Maybe there's no sin in keeping it, either -- from what I understand, Phillip Pullman has quite the fetish for a highly specific fountain pen and workplace layout.

What would be a sin would be becoming hidebound by it. What would be a sin would be assuming the magic begins and ends with the wand being waved.

I have, on reflection, a pretty rigid set of preferences for the environment I do my writing in. I prefer an office with a door I can close; I prefer a clicky keyboard; I prefer Microsoft Word. But these are preferences. When my wife and I pulled up roots and relocated, I spent a couple of months writing (and working generally) in what used to be someone else's study. (Hail to you, Alfred, wherever you may be now.) But as soon as I had a choice, I chose the things I knew I would be happiest with.

And even under some of the most stressful and haphazard conditions of my life in years, I still managed to be productive. Never, however, will I assume that means other people must be able to develop that discipline. Only that for whatever reason, I had it, and it stands me in good stead. I figured if I had been lucky enough to have that discipline, I might as well make the best possible use of it.

Tags: creativity creators