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The balance between partnerships and creativity, between being together and being alone, between doing/being and reflecting on the doing and being, is often a fine line. Like many people, I have sought to manage and maintain the balance. It is often easier to create when you have space and solitude; but relationships, family, work and friends are all so important.

Tillie Olsen’s, ‘Silences‘ published in 1978, is about the conditions for creating art, and the circumstances that inhibit and foster the development of writing and other art forms. She examines what works for creativity; the circumstances that she analyses include gender, race and economic situation. A product of its time, ‘Silences’ identifies the high number of women, for example, who have not married or had children and created works of art. Certainly the personal and social situations we create, choose and find ourselves in are an influence in what we create and the conditions in which it is created.

I wrote about this some time ago in a poem that still holds true for me about the balance between relationships and creativity:

Half a Man

If I had even half a man now
could I write the night,
out into its waiting wings
to penetrate delight.

If I had a part of one
who tried to gather all,
I’d run because his promise
is not wiser than the call.

If I had a whole man
who could teach me to receive,
I’d write between the space he gave
and love with sudden ease.

Sometimes , the space itself, when we do find it, can be almost too much, overwhelming in its vacancy to fill. The feeling of all that open space in which to create, once we have organised it or when it is just there due to circumstance, can in itself be intimidating as May Sarton writes in ‘Journal of a Solitude‘:

The ambience here is order and beauty. That is what frightens me when I am first alone again. I feel inadequate. I have made an open place, a place for meditation. What if I cannot find myself inside it? (p12)

I love the approach of Australian writer, Kate Grenville, to capturing every inspiration and opportunity to create. As she documents in ‘Searching for the Secret River‘, Kate uses a series of mantras to keep herself writing: ‘never have a blank page,’ ‘don’t wait for the mood’, ‘fix it up later’ and ‘don’t wait for time to write’. She further writes:

I learned to work in whatever slivers of time the day might give me – one of my favourite scenes in ‘Joan Makes History‘ was written in the car waiting to pick up Tom from a birthday party, on the only paper I could find, the inside of a flattened Panadol packet. I had slivers of time, so I wrote in slivers of words: a page here, a paragraph there. Eventually the slivers would add to something. (p145)

So it seems there is no perfect formula for making space to speak. Whilst some conditions might make writing and other creativity more likely, if we are serious about it, we need to write and create in whatever situation we find ourselves. It’s possibly also that waiting for the perfect conditions is just another form of resistance to getting down to work.

That’s why this blog is so important to me; it’s a stay against silence, a way of creating space to speak, a way of practising making space, so that my writing here now (nearly) each week is an achievement, a making of space in an otherwise very busy life.

So with all this in mind, what habitat suits you to create? What conditions help you write or create art? What have you learnt from your experiences in creativity over time ?