Ella is a frustrated writer, who published a few stories about a decade ago and has been meaning to get back to it ever since. She used to be (and will be again because she misses it dearly) a teacher of art, creative writing, project learning and social activism. Ella is also a translator & editor and the co-founder of Hubitus – a space to write in. She currently lives and works in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
It’s not that I don’t have a desk. I have a desk which is fully equipped and ready for use. Except for a chair. I’m missing a chair, but that’s beside the point. I was never a table and chair kind of person. As a child I would do my homework on the floor despite the gentle parental objections and educational explanations. I’d sit on the floor, cross-legged with my notebook in front of me, leaning my elbow beside it and my head on my hand. That was the most comfortable way for me to think and write. I guess it made me feel grounded.
As I grew up I became less flexible physically and more flexible mentally, so now you can find me trying to write on couches, buses, cushions, or even at tables… but mostly on my bed in various positions: upright & leaning on the wall; stretched out sideways; legs spread out straight in front of me, laptop on a heavy book on my knees, back bent forwards towards it; lying on my belly, feet dangling in the air, head held up, notebook on the floor, my hand holding a pen trying to reach it. And there are still many options to explore and discover. In my bed I feel most at home and least aware of myself, which is essential for me to be able to enter a creative mode.
When I was younger I wanted to be an artist. I had the whole romantic dream going of being fully and totally embraced by the powers of creativity. It was wonderful, powerful and rich but gradually the intensity of this experience subsided, due to the equally strong (if not stronger) powers of self-criticism and self-doubt. I left art and writing for many years. It felt a bit like an angry divorce with many issues left unaddressed and exposed.
Lately I’ve been trying to return to the inner zones of creativity. The notebook is the arena I search in. It’s where I try to find the door to ‘the zone’, let out all the self-inflicted venom, clear my mind. I prefer sketchbooks with thick paper and no lines so I can doodle and write and just hangout on the page in different colors and textures. The notebook can’t be too fancy so that I won’t feel obligated to create something good. I like to have fun pens and pencils. They keep me curious and playful.
3. A Laptop Named Samantha.
My laptop and I are kind of close… I love Sam’s rhythm, the gentle clicking sounds her keyboard buttons make. Sometimes the potential sounds are enough to get me writing even when I feel I have nothing to say.
I use my phone to jot down thoughts on the go. Later these thoughts are used as anchors for writing session. Evernote & Notes are my preferred apps. Evernote because of the option to combine mediums, I find it easier to write when I can start with a picture; and Notes because that’s all they are, notes. There is no order in them. I often forget about them and then later return to find words I can’t imagine were written by me. It’s a puzzling and sometimes inspiring experience.
When the writing just doesn’t happen and the home brewed coffee isn’t a strong enough incentive there’s no choice but to get out of bed, get dressed and go to a café. That’s the only place where I work like a normal person, sitting on a chair with Samantha on the table in front of me and a quality macchiato beside her. It can’t be any café. It has to be comfortable, but the parameters of comfort aren’t quite clear to me. It’s more of an intuitive and spontaneous decision even though it often tends to be the same one. Some of the questions that buzz through my mind before I sit down: Are the other customers busy enough not to notice me? Does the staff seem judgmental? Will they mind if I stay long? How’s the lighting? Is there an open corner? Where can I plug Samantha in? Is it too warm in here? How many laptops can I see? Where’s the bathroom? Yes. I tend to linger.
When I finally sit down in a café and write I am very aware of myself, but I feel like a writer. I stop being me for a while and become this cool character from a story about a writer who sits in cafés and writes captivating and important stuff. Suddenly it becomes easier for the words to appear in my brain and find their way to the page without becoming too heavy and serious on the way.
Another way to free the words in me when they really want to stay clustered inside and chained to themselves is to write beside friends. It can be one friend who is working on something too or a group of friends doing anything. As long as I’m not expected to interact it’s helpful. It takes the severity of writing out of the equation and puts me in a more nonchalant writing mode.
Oh how I love my books. Their smell, their feel, their prestige, all the words they hold inside. I have many books. Among them quite a few about creativity and writing. Their presence soothes me. The thought that they may carry a solution, even one small tip that will enable me to write. One of the books I have opened and read many times is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Every now and again when I feel motivated yet completely stuck, I randomly open it and find my way into writing.
8. Bedside Lamp.
My yellow lamp follows me from every apartment I leave, to every apartment I move to. I have had it with me since I was a little girl. I like reading and writing beside it even when I don’t need its light. It symbolizes the feeling of home for me, reminds me who I am in a way. It shines a light on the things I want to do for myself.
9. Red Reading Glasses.
They aren’t really necessary. Their number is very small and the difference in vision very slight. But they make me see more clearly on a metaphoric level. So when I find it difficult to concentrate on my writing I put them on. They help me focus.
10. The Walls.
In the days when I was creating more intensely, every surface was a potential page. I saw letters not only as symbols which create verbal meaning but also as visual patterns. Painting and writing belonged to the same world. They belonged to me and I belonged with them. My walls were full of secretive phrases and intimate graffiti that were actually a conversation between me and my room.
Now ‘La Linea’ is on my wall. He was situated there by Michal, my flat mate a year before I settled in. I like to have him there. I know he’s probably criticizing me and complaining about life, but he has a sense of humor and so reminds me I have one too. I’m looking forward to a future moment in which I will feel comfortable enough with my pen or pencil to give him a visual-verbal companion. The moment is close. I can feel it in the tips of my fingers.