DAY 3 April 20th Your body and the way you inhabit particular spaces that encourage your creativity
Focusing on the spaces in which I work which, over the years have probably been the main site for my creativity, I have always thought I can work almost anywhere, but being productive, comfortable and contented or inspired in a space requires a bit more.
I have had two careers in my working life a geologist and a geology teacher, and a system broker come educator/educational developer. As a geologist the world was my space and my inspiration and I was fortunate to work in some fantastic spaces - the cliffs of west Cornwall, the rugged wilderness of Saudi Arabia, the Spanish Pyrenees. I inhabited these spaces as an interested, curious, knowledgeable, purposeful natural scientist, observing and exploring to understand the geology or hunt for mineral deposits. In this way of being I was physically, intellectually and emotionally immersed in the landscape and the climate. I felt hot and cold, dry or wet or blown, like rocks around me. Feeling and holding the rock materials, hearing the natural sounds and the crack of a hammer on the rocks, breathing the scents of the landscape as I labour, continuously trying to make sense of what I was seeing interpreting the stories in the rocks. This was my natural studio for my imagination and reasoning and it was here that interpreted and recorded what I saw in notebooks, on maps or aerial photographs. I sketched what I saw and annotated my pictures so I could check my observations and interpretations later.
I have also worked in many different buildings in my life. Buildings create an entirely different artificial environment containing man made things like furniture, lighting and ambient noise. I behave quite differently in them - more mental and far less physical labour bound by the social conventions of the spaces and the roles I am expected to perform. As a teacher, educator, the classrooms, practical laboratories and lecture theatres were my performance spaces. I performed as a teacher of geology or education in the ways that were expected of me. I only ever had one chance to design a space for teaching and learning in my role as Director of the SCEPTrE centre and we opted for open, light airy spaces with light weight moveable furniture. There is no doubt that everyone who used these spaces was influenced by them and many teachers experimented with facilitation techniques that were new to them. But I did have a chance to design and build a geology museum in my very first job as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. Now that was a very special space - filled with wonderful displays, maps, satellite photographs of the geology of Saudi Arabia. I poured my creativity into that space and it was a space for learning.
As a broker (researcher, policy developer and system developer) working in a number if agencies - the world of higher education was my space. I have lots track of the number of institutional spaces I have worked in in my various guises. Here my spaces were people's offices and lecture theatres where I gave presentations about the work of the agencies I was working for or tried to engage audiences in issues I was working on. They were not my spaces I was, and still am, invited into them. But they are transient spaces which I inhabited as me in whatever role I was performing with an identity that I had developed for the role.
When it comes to everyday work spaces in buildings I have some control over them. I don't like busy open plan office spaces which I find too distracting, Neither do I like to share an office if I have the option. I like light airy spaces..I like to be able to play music and have tea or coffee whenever I want it. It's nice to be able to look out of a window onto something other than a car park. These are all very basic things. I also like open spaces where I can walk or do some physical labour: my garden is a fantastic space for this. When the weather is fine I enjoy working outside although I often have to stick my laptop in a cardboard box so I can see the screen. I have an office in my home, a converted garage, but I continually move around the house and occupy different spaces.
Because I work from home I am able to inhabit my spaces in an informal, but disciplined way. I dress in jeans, T shorts and socks. I often listen to music, I work long hours but take breaks as and when I feel like. The one thing I miss is interaction with colleagues and students in my work environment I think that this has a negative impact on my ability and motivation to be creative.
But regardless of the space I inhabit I'm at my most creative when I am engaging with ideas or projects I am interested in, I care about and which challenge me. As a teacher or presenter I prefer not to have to stand behind a table and I like to be close to the people I am interacting with. When I'm invited to participate in a CPD event one of my first questions is what sort of space and how many people are involved because the forms of interaction I am able to facilitate are very much dependent on these two factors. Of course in the real world we make do with, and make the best of, spaces that are far from ideal but we can reshape spaces by removing furniture and using walls and windows to work on.
The spaces I work in, and the transitional spaces I travel through to get to my places of work, are definitely important to the way I feel which affects the way I work and ultimately my ability to create. But they are only one element of a complex ecology that I create and inhabit when involved in any learning project that demands my creativity.