As a kid, more often than not you could find me in the one place in my folks' house where most of my creations and concoctions were constructed: the garage. For a kid whose sole purpose at the time was to replicate props from my favorite moves – my custom made proton pack being among the best – the countless tokens, mementos, and junk that my family collected over the years was about as packed and plentiful as the warehouse from the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I had a plethora of supplies right at my fingertips: old toy sets, odds-and-ends parts from busted-up machinery, leftover spray paint cans. I had more than enough to work with.
Aside from the precious raw materials it provided – my dad’s toolbox one of the unfortunate casualties of my creations, sorry Dad – it was also the escape that the garage offered that was of the utmost appeal. It was part of the house, but it's own separate unit, a little box of solitude with one way in and one way out. Even though I wasn't aware of it at the time, it was my very first studio, my little creative dojo where I could escape from the world and live in one of my design. It wasn't the most open space. Damn sure wasn't the cleanest. But the second that garage door shut and the fluorescent bulbs overhead kicked in, I was working.
Some of the best memories I have are the times I threw that low-hanging garage door open and revealed my newest lightsaber, costume replica, or miniature model, only to close it down quickly to start in on my next project. Some of the best stuff I’ve created was done inside that slightly stuffy den of inspiration. It just wasn’t until a few weeks back when I was chatting with a friend who was asked me how I go about writing that I realized how important that place was to me.
"My approach to writing is simple," I told him. "I get up, throw on a pot of coffee, and lock myself in a room for twelve hours until I come up with something."
“What room?” he asked.
“The garage,” I told him. “I converted it into an office.”
He then quickly pointed out a fact that had seemed to escape me – the consistent theme of “the garage” being my best location for creation.
I honestly wasn’t cognizant of that fact. For years I’ve tried adapting to other environments and methods to go about writing with none of those choices yielding the same results I had working inside that damn garage. After a gaggle of instructors and peers trying to convince me that coffee shops or rented spaces worked best for creative flow, only to find that none of them worked, I thought it was a sign that I might not be cut out for writing. I wasn’t able to do things the way others were doing them. I couldn’t dwell or thrive in the same creative spaces they did. I felt depleted. Stupid. Some of the worst stuff was being elicited in these places and with these methods.
Clearly whatever I was doing wasn’t working.
Recently I moved houses. One of the perks of the place was a garage that had been cleaned-up and semi-converted into a living space. The second I stepped foot inside of it, I knew I had to claim it for myself. I didn’t know why. I should have, but I didn’t.
The reason was simple and elegant. I just didn’t realize it until a year later. It was the garage calling me back to my roots, to the place I naturally acclimated to as my creative living space. The second I put a desk inside that 80s checkered-floor slice of heaven and cracked open my laptop, the words have flowed just as freely and easily as the paint I was using on the proton pack back during my childhood.
I guess the point of the garage bit is that the more you try to adhere to the way other people do things, the more it limits your honesty, your ability to gravitate towards the sources and places that trigger your imagination.
I’m not a conventional bloke when it comes to my craft. I operate with a kind of bastardized style of writing. I don’t outline or blueprint things too intricately. It locks me in a box. It limits my imagination. I can’t outline three acts of a screenplay in order to write it. I just write it. The fact is that my way of doing things has allowed me to create effectively, and more importantly, freely.
I'm trying to say that you should find your own way to create. Find your own path and methods to apply as an artist in order to bring out the material within you that’s looking to escape. You know what inspires you. You know where you do your best work. Don't make the mistake I did of thinking that you "have to" do something a certain way to yield results. It suppresses your creativity. It limits your imagination.
Find your own solutions.
Find your own garage.