In our August programme, podcast host Mark Bridge asked his three guests – author Beth Miller, wood engraver Keith Pettit and knitting writer Geraldine Warner – about the rituals or routines they follow to get them in a creative mood before they start work.
GW: Well, I have two dogs and I go for a dog walk, which generally clears my head, gets me out of the house, gets me out of what’s been going on in the lead-up to work. I hadn’t realised that it was a really good problem-solving time for me. Something always comes to me; there’s always a moment of inspiration, without me looking for it sometimes. There are times when I have a specific problem that I take with me on this dog walk, that I hope to try and solve, but there are times when something just drifts into my head and I take it back home with me and work with it from there. So that’s always a good one for me.
BM: I didn’t think I had one – I do the school run then I come in, I ignore the house, if it’s a mess I’m becoming really adept at pretending that’s nothing to do with me – but then I realised that I mess about on the internet for a bit, and I’m now going to attempt to elevate that into a necessary ritual. I think I have to do that to kind-of get my head back into starting at a screen, because I write on my computer – so I think I have to do a certain amount of mucking about on websites and things before I can settle down. So, yes, that is my ritual. And it is not mucking about. It is a very important part of the creative process during which I empty my mind and become very Zen.
KP: I think, really, you guys have answered that question for me. It’s a mixture of both. You know, when I sit down to work – producing work, whatever it is I’m working on, whether it is a bonfire or a wood engraving or whatever – the thought processes while I’ve been on the walk has happened and I’ve built the work up in my head. You know, everything is created in my head: I’ve got this, like, library in my head that I go to and all my ideas are there. Sometimes I’ll go back and re-polish that one and tweak that one and put it back on the shelf. And it is times like going for a walk… washing up is another thing that I love doing. Because when you’re manually working, it allows your head to wander. And actually, I have to tidy up. I can’t cope with the mess. I wood-engrave mostly at night when the kids have gone to bed and the house is quiet, but I’ll need to clear up from cooking. I will wash up. I mean, the house is always a complete tip but there has to be some semblance of order. In doing that I feel as though I am getting into the groove, almost. But actually, sitting down to work, there are no rituals because the walk to work or whatever, is the time where… or the washing up…
GW: I know what you mean about the washing up. It’s a mindless activity and you know exactly what you need to do, there is no problem-solving in that task, there is no creativity, you just know exactly what’s going on, so your mind can drift while you’re doing that thing.
KP: And it’s anything you can do that can occupy your hands. I think, to a degree, the internet is like a substitute for that. It’s a similar thing. And it’s one of the reasons I don’t have a mobile phone because I’m dreadful. As soon as the computer’s on I will look at Twitter, I will follow and read that blog, and it’s like – arrgh – three-quarters of an hour has gone past and I’ve not done anything! And if I had a phone, I know I’d be like that all the time. So I try – and it’s getting harder and harder to avoid having a phone – I try not to have a phone. Because that walk then would be “I’ll just see if so-and-so has answered that email, and then once I’ve done that I’ll then be…”and so I find the bit of the brain that does the creativity in me is sated by reading Twitter or whatever. So I’m not going to get any creative work done if I’m doing that.
BM: You just need a phone like mine that’s so old you can’t get…
KP: You drift off in a daydream!
BM: You drift off in a daydream while you’re waiting for the internet. Yeah, I think I would be much more creative – clearly – if I didn’t have a dishwasher.
GW: Or if you had a dog.
BM: Or a dog. I need to break the dishwasher and get a dog. No, this is so not going to happen.
KP: See if you can go to Kit Wilson and swap the dishwasher for a dog!
You can hear the August 2015 Love Lewes podcast on our website audio player. These podcasts can also be heard via iTunes, on our RSS feed, on the Stitcher.com mobile app or by downloading the MP3 file directly.