It’s important that you have a place entirely your own while you work. It should be able to inspire you, get you thinking, and feel like you. It can be anywhere from a room full of books to a flat rock on the beach. It can be a single chair hidden behind a staircase, even. As long as your surroundings awaken something pure inside of you, your work will reflect it and shape it and give it authenticity.
When I started writing my first novel (not counting fan fiction, which I totally endorse as a way to practise writing) and became more and more invested in the world I had created, I wanted to surround myself with things which helped me visualize what I was describing. Being a book about witches, I grew fascinated with the paraphernalia long associated with witchcraft: pumpkins, glass bottles of varying shapes and colours, harvest, festivals, and so on. It wasn’t that I was throwing caution to the wind and becoming a witch myself, nor was it entirely for research purposes alone. I simply needed to feel I was a part of what I had created in order to evoke realistic emotion in my characters. I also wanted my work to have as much legitimacy as fantasy can have; I learned about the phases of the moon and actual uses of herbs in alternative medicine.
I imagine the same could be said of all artistic endeavours. If you write a song about the ocean, for example, there is an expectation that you yourself have been there. Not only will truth and personal experience enrich each and every detail of your work, it will make it relatable. And as soon as you know something really well, then you can truly start being imaginative with it. In my experience, an audience loves nothing more than the feeling they get when they completely understand where you’re coming from but were incapable of capturing it on their own.
It’s an elusive thing, that shared moment, but it’s at least a small aspect of the intangible force which drives us to create.
I know that’s what I’m looking for: those fleeting seconds when I have so many ideas I’m scared to death that I won’t get to my notebook or computer in time to write them down. When every little thing seems like it exists only to get my imagination working and makes my fingers itch to do it justice. Naturally that heightened state of almost muse-like inspiration doesn’t come around every day, so that’s why I believe in building a space to work in that reminds me of the times it has.
So, if you can refashion an inspiring environment at home, or in your work space, you are doing yourself a favor. Honestly who cares if your tastes come across as a little quirky or eccentric; that was already a given when you decided to pursue an artistic career. I’d personally rather explore my own style and figure out what I like than copy everyone else. If the end result is hideous, well, then, that scene where your girlfriend moves in and redecorates your house just wrote itself.
Meanwhile, you might as well get that surrealist piece you love and hang it on the living room wall if it gets you thinking creatively every time you look at it.
On a personal level, I can tell you that my love of pumpkins hasn’t diminished in the least since finishing my novel and I like it that way. My husband probably doesn’t (but he deals).