Growing up, I was always lucky enough to have my own room. Sometimes I would lie awake at night in the moments before sleep grabbed me and think about how I could rearrange my domain. My ideas were so exciting, they’d keep me up past the hour when I should have been asleep. In the dark, I’d envision my new room with the bed there, and the bookcase here, the dresser on that wall, the desk on that one. On waking I’d usually realize that my kingdom wasn’t quite as roomy as I’d imagined, but no matter. I would proceed with Operation Overhaul anyway.
As soon as I could, I’d start moving the small furniture and then enlist a sibling or parent to help me with the things I couldn’t lift. Once the dust had settled, my new space would seem so much better than the old set up. The view was different from any vantage point. I noticed new things, like a tree that used to be out of sight or the way the light and shadows played on the rug. I would feel new myself, too, refreshed and in some small way altered.
As time went on, and this became a semi-annual habit, I learned to draw out my plans, hasty maps of my dream room as they appeared in my mind’s eye. I had (still have) a terrible sense of scale and proportion, and I’m not sure I ever took out a tape measure – that seemed like a buzz kill from the start. My plans at least got me to slow down and rework the design, but the lack of measuring led to some hasty rearrangements. Still, the whole process filled me with indescribable energy and joy.
As I’ve been contemplating my novel rewrite, it strikes me that fiction writers have this same luxury. We get to reconstruct the world: create a new setting or splash some color on one we know well, throw in a few made up characters, and set some wheels in motion. I don’t think there’s a lot of planning and measuring up front for the most part. Judging by many writers’ admonitions that their characters just do things, these rearranging efforts often take on a life of their own. The result may be a sanctuary or a dystopia, only in part planned by the writer. The new world is as much a surprise to its creator as it is to the reader.
How many of us make a habit of reconsidering our space or our lives as an outlet for our creativity? Isn’t that what creativity is in the first place – a re-envisioning of some aspect of our existence, sometimes so abstract that its meaning is known only to us, sometimes so real other people want to step right inside it? Cheers to everyone out there who is moving the mental furniture around – the writers, painters, sculptors, designers, and their ilk, and even the little girls scraping up the floors in their bedrooms – this is living without walls.