I have a beautiful sun-filled space in which to work. It’s a bit narrow and slightly awkward to furnish conveniently, but it is an ACTUAL SPARE ROOM that I – OK my family too – can use to get all creative or scholarly or whatever.
So why do I use my dining room for working?
Um this is why…
Yep this is the Back Room.
And these are the stairs in the back room, up to a mezzanine guest bedroom.
See how neatly we’ve shoved stuff to the side so guests can still get up there?
For obvious reasons the door is usually closed on all this – you know, in case something falls out.
No one goes in there – unless we have to stash the stuff we’re working on because we have guests coming over for dinner and we need the table… Or guests (close friends who know and love us dearly and understand) are coming to stay overnight… Or we are looking for something like a book we haven’t read or even seen for 5 years, or archived school results, or a project we worked on last year and suddenly need (OH HELL, I think it’s in the Back Room…) .
OK, so it er… appears I’m a hoarder.
But I KNOW what’s in there. I also know HOW it all got crammed in there – the dinner table thing notwithstanding. There are past projects, boxed and completed but not yet recycled; archive boxes and files of past academic lives, or childhood art and schoolwork; materials and tools collected for projects real or planned or imagined; market stall leftovers, signage and planning notes; things I never want to see again but am afraid to throw away; things I want to see again but don’t know how to make space for… My life and my family’s life collected in bits of paper and cloth, obsolete technology and tangible memories
As you can see by the stack of clear plastic storage boxes, I have even attempted to sort and categorize items for ease of retrieval. But it’s a very sporadic work in progress. Meanwhile stuff continues to pile up and no matter how diligent we are about the Back Room door, the stuff piles out too…
We have here: last week’s guests’ creative travails, on top of my plastic bag collection (waiting to be cut into plastic yarn), next to my embroidery cotton box (being sorted for upcoming workshops), under recently emptied tissue boxes (handy for storing plastic yarn) and on top of boxes of notes from my day job (2017) and my son’s schoolwork (earlier than 2017). I also see my grandmother’s sewing box on top of a set of drawers containing coloured plastic bottle tops and other found objects, and just next to that a couple of boxes of t-shirts cut into yarn, bags and remnants. There’s also a box of stuff for the BBQ outside – the sole contribution of my husband. What a guy. He tries but he just can’t keep up with my largesse.
Soooo. What’s this all about then?
Why out myself like this?
It’s a promise – it’s a dare. Dare to let go, dare to have a go.
I’ve been taking part in a wonderful program, the Creative Focus Workshop, created and facilitated by the very clever and talented graphic novelist, comics artist, creative mentor Jessica Abel. When you click through to the first link you’ll see how well my current dilemma fits this program. If you have any trouble getting down and doing your creative thaing, go and check it out. I got there via a free online workshop ‘How to carve out space in your life, to achieve your big deadline-free creative goals.’ A mouthful yes, but energizing, enough to motivate me to spend some extra time and money to go the to next stage.
As part of that next stage, the Creative Focus Workshop, I have committed to One Goal. A Big Creative Project that means a great deal to me and will make space to create more BIG CREATIVE PROJECTS.
I’m going to mindfully, purposefully excavate the Back Room – I am embarking on a personal archaeology of stuff.
I am going to delve deep into those middens and confront all that’s there. I will do it slowly. I will do it steadily. I will do it regularly. I will do it thoughtfully. And I will document the layers and the finds as an Archaeologist of Self.
I am scared. There are things in there I really really don’t want to confront. Not like a secret community of rats or something – although I admit that would be pretty confronting and pretty gross and a bit of a mess to deal with – but more like some deep regrets, some sad stories, some humbling moments and some bittersweet memories. But it has to be done or I can’t move on.
As I uncover each pile, open each box, file, bag, stash, I will take note.
What is this?
How and why did it get here?
What is its purpose in my life now?
How will I deal with it?
Treasure or trash, remake or recycle?
And then Action. Be it art, archive or another life in another place.
And I will record the process.
It will be a long and sometimes difficult task. And in the process I might find out how that stuff actually got there – and it won’t be that I was clearing the table or we don’t have enough cupboard space. Why did I make the choices I made to create the self portrait that is currently The Back Room. And can I make new choices and new self portraits in that space that I will be eager to share with the outside world…