As I write this I’m sitting on a speeding commuter train, heading home; I do this every weekday. No trivial trip to the suburbs, it’s part of the five hours minimum I spend traveling between arising from my bed and returning to it. It starts with a 30 minute headlong dash along twisty mountain roads complete with unpredictable kangaroos and wombats. There’s plenty of other wildlife too, but those ones can turn your car (and you) into a pile of buckled metal in nothing flat. We drive a humble Korean sedan, not some huge beast with front-end armour-plating like some of our neighbours, so we’re facing extra risk. At the end of the drive, if I’ve timed it properly, there’s a 90 minute train ride followed by a half-hour walk. If I haven’t timed it properly, there’s an hour-long wait before the train ride. At the end of the day the scenario plays out in reverse.

When we get home, there’s dinner to be made. Then our guilty pleasure is to watch an episode of something on DVD – we don’t have broadcast TV since I climbed onto the roof, tore down the aerial and took it to the metal recycling pile at the local garbage tip. That done, it’s either computer-based work until sleep, or sleep followed by an early alarm to get some work done.

And yet, when asked to describe myself, I say I’m a “web guy and musician”. That’s my self-image, and although it could be argued that the musician component is largely aspirational, I keep that vision in my head because it’s who I want to be. Who I need to be, actually. And every now and then, that vision erupts into reality, such as with the completion of my solo album.

The thing is that I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s parents who call themselves writers or deliverymen who identify as sportsmen, we’re all sharing our lives between that which we must do and that which we want to be. We’re all challenged to split our time between competing priorities. Having lived on this planet for a while now, I think I’ve worked out that the crapshoot of life is played in how well we manage all the things we do. When I hear of writers who work at their craft all day I can’t help but think they’re living in luxury. Imagine having all the time you need for your non-work pursuits! But when I really do imagine it, the serenity of having no deadlines, no emailed requests for reports, no meetings to attend, no minutes to write … I realise that my creativity would dry up and blow away on the wind.

My best work is done when I’m recovering from a difficult week, when my wife’s outside mowing the lawn and I’m feeling guilty because I just popped inside “to do something” and picked up my guitar, or when I wake up at 3am thinking about the presentation I have to give in six hours. Who really knows where creativity comes from? Not me, that’s for sure. However it feels right when I say that my best ideas fall out of the gaps in my increasingly full brain, from the misfiring of synapses that have been asked to do too much and not given enough sleep or nutrition to do it with.

You want to be creative? I prescribe a week of hard work and stress with no sleep. Then get up at 6am on a Saturday, sit in the corner chair with your pen and paper and listen to the noise emanating from inside your head. Then translate it into words; don’t try to make sense of it at first. Then, when you suddenly see a pattern in the jumble, keep writing. Don’t stop unfolding the dream until your loved ones start shouting your name and threatening to call the paramedics.┬áMaybe not even then.

It works for me.

1 comment to Timeshare

  • YP

    However it feels right when I say that my best ideas fall out of the gaps in my increasingly full brain, …
    You might as well keep on a shampoo visor about your head upside down so that it can collect any external spill-overs of your best ideas! One of them might sprout into your best song ever in future, who knows!
    Looking forward to your upcoming solo work – good luck with the final stage of releasing, cheers