by Jaclyn Tockstein
As a senior in the Professional & Digital Writing major (with only a few weeks left until graduation), I’d like to tell a short story about the importance of creating space for the purpose of creativity.
Like many of you, I went through most of my schooling believing I was perhaps a pretty advanced writer since I excelled in many of my honors and AP English classes, and went on to excel in college courses as well. But there’s a significant difference, I think, between excelling in writing academic papers and making progress in more creative forms (such as poetry and creative nonfiction, in my case).
During my time at Oakland, I happened to work for the Meadow Brook Writing Project which functions significantly out of Meadow Brook Hall, the former home of Oakland’s founder, Matilda Dodge Wilson. During those blessed three summers that I spent with the program, I found that the creative environments established for these 3rd through 12th grade students was perfect for my own creativity as well. The Meadow Brook Writing Project had maintained a safe, welcoming, and creatively nurturing environment for young writers, and in fact, I wrote some of my best pieces on that estate. Throughout the coming fall and winter semesters, when the program was less active, I would spend most of my time writing academic papers and preparing for graduation. It didn’t occur to me that I was losing touch with my creative side until I would come across writing-related folders on flash drives or on the desktop of my computer with half-finished stories, and plans to have pieces published.
When I finally found the time and sat down to work on those sitting duck pieces, the level of creativity I had in past summers just wasn’t there. The words felt forced and the ideas weren’t coming across as I wanted them to. I wasn’t in my special place, my nurturing, creative environment. I knew it was foolish to think that I would always have access to Meadow Brook Hall because even though I had (on occasion) driven over there for the sole purpose of finishing a poem, I realized shortly thereafter that I would need to create a more nurturing environment for my creativity and it seemed like being outdoors helped with that.
After my last summer with the program ended, I set my backyard up for the coming fall semester with umbrellas, comfy pillows on the patio furniture, sweet lemonade, an extension cord to help charge my laptop, colorful pens to write with in my journal, and all of the other cute amenities I could think of to make my experience more inviting. I essentially established my own space to nurture my creative side because I felt that if I relied on Meadow Brook Hall, I would have essentially created a handicap for my writing–having to abide by visiting hours, always checking the weather reports, and perhaps succumbing to future tolls for A) wandering the grounds and B) no longer being a current OU student. Changing my creative space was a smart decision, and it has already resulted in more stories written and more pieces submitted for publication.
For many young writers, there is a special place where you go to do your best work: sitting at your desk, wrapped in blankets on your bed, sitting near the fireplace, laying in the grass somewhere, and so on. For me, my special place was sitting in any of the number of gardens surrounding Meadow Brook Hall. Sometimes, however, the unexpected happens and your creative space may no longer be the staple you thought it was. As I prepare for graduation, I know that Meadow Brook Hall will still be there, but it won’t be my only creative space. Likewise, if you are forced to change spaces or feel your space is not providing the stimulus it once was, consider making the necessary changes that will result in the nurturing atmosphere you want for your creativity. Some writers have the ability to write anywhere, and some of us need a safe space to begin.
Let this be a reminder to recount where your safe space is, and perhaps update it to better fit your current needs. The world could use a little more positive energy, and your creativity might just be the key. So pour yourself some hot chocolate, iced tea, wine, or whatever gives you a creative jolt, and create the space you need to write the words only you can.