As an artist I am omnivorous, trawling constantly and hungrily for ideas and images. My creative engine is not sticky or churlish. It doesn’t take much to ignite my writing -- any bright, bold spark will do -- but it does take something, and that something cannot be taken for granted.
When I was a teenager I used to hitchhike in and out of the small village where my family lived. Hitchhiking felt risky and sometimes desperate, but I was tired of waiting for buses that might or might not show up. Standing at the bus stop in the rain and fading light, began to seem more desperate than the act of holding out my thumb, stopping a car, and asking for a lift of a complete stranger. In comparison waiting for the bus was passive, maybe pointless, ultimately debilitating.
And so is waiting around for ideas, hoping one may turn up, and that it might be original, and that it might be good or juicy. When buses were in short supply I found people willing to give me a ride. Sometimes they were people who interested and amused me, and quite often they tested and challenged and scared me. Hitchhiking is a nervy and unsettling business -- and so is the creation of art.
For this artist the scarcity of my adult life has been not buses but money. Waiting for my creative work to pay the way has mostly felt as futile a pursuit as waiting for the elusive 252 from Tunbridge Wells to Eastbourne. One day that long dreamt of windfall might sweep through my life: I imagine it appearing unlooked for, like the night bus I once saw as I was walking home on dark country lanes long after midnight. The night was frosty, my head was down, and suddenly I heard a great roar and turned to see the bus sway past, a double-decker all lit up like a galleon on the high seas, and entirely empty except for the driver.
While waiting for the appearance of the unlooked for nightbus, however, I have earned my bread and butter living over the years working in restaurants and offices and teaching. Right now, I am an office person. I have a desk by a window, and a photocopier, and friends I greet each day, and a workaday routine that involves toast and tea at half past ten and a lunchtime walk. And while I am old enough to recognise the joy of routine, I am also young enough to love the fact that my office is tucked away inside a theatre and that for much of the year I am surrounded by the intensely creative and sparky world of opera. The best of many worlds then, when my work day takes me from the office to the rehearsal space and I sit eavesdropping on a new work being hashed out, filling my sketchbook with ideas hoovered up from the ether: mine and not mine; mine and someone else’s but then made mine by the power of my transmogrifying pencil and my trawling, transforming mind.