Does London Stifle Creativity?


Sunday night often sees me sitting at my laptop trying to rustle up some inspiration for my weekly blog post. Sometimes inspiration comes easily - trying my luck (successfully) at getting an interview with Ben Eine last week was a no-brainer, given that he was all over the news for the past week due to his instrumental role in the Cameron/Obama painting exchange.

Sometimes, though, coming up with the idea takes as much or more effort as writing the post itself. I have resources aplenty: magazines, television, radio, the Internet, cinema. But sometimes the creative juices dry up like creative glue.

This week, though, I am writing my blog post from a tiny remote island off the coast of mainland Croatia. There is quite literally nothing to do here apart from eat, sleep, read and swim. There is a tv in the flat but so far I have had absolutely no desire to turn it on. Considering it's one of the first things I do when I get home from the daily grind at the office - sluffing out to an episode of Scrubs or something similar to unwind - this is quite a change for me. What we do have here on the island is the most amazing panoramic view from our terrace over two bays, which is infinitely more interesting. What it also gives me is inspiration.

Blogging aside, one of my other guises is, in fact, being a media composer (films, tv, commercials, DVDs - that sort of thing.) For reasons I won't bore you with, I have barely written a note in over a year and I'm convinced that at least part of the reason for that is because the pace of my life in London simply doesn't afford me the time, opportunity or relaxation necessary to allow me to "get creative" for a long enough stretch.

I am, by admission, addicted to the internet and my iPhone (guess what I'm typing this on!) For the first few days of my holiday I was bemoaning the fact that I had to "make do" in this Adriatic backwater. And then I suddenly saw the light with the accompanying celestial "aaaaah-aaaaah-aaaaaah". I raided the dining room dresser and found myself a pencil and an old poster advertising a boat trip to a neighbouring island - there was no decent sized paper - and I started composing. I used the spine of my Lonely Planet guidebook as a ruler to draw the staves themselves; bit wonky but never mind. And then away I went - for three days, with the occasional dip in the sea for a change of visual perspective. When I'd filled up the boat trip poster, I dug out my outbound boarding pass and carried on on the back of that.

Without a piano, writing a choral work is not the easiest of tasks. I had to rely solely on my inner ear and revisit my harmony classes from some 20 years previous. But it was both liberating and refreshing - not to mention creatively and intellectually stimulating - to challenge myself and return to something I once absolutely loved doing.

But always the pragmatist (and technophile), I can't wait to get back to my home studio to run my magnum opus through the notation program Sibelius - if for no other reason than to get rid of the scribbles and inserted bars, but mainly so I can hear how accurate my inner ear is...or isn't.

So in light of my Croatian creative reawakening, I wondered how many other people find London just too frenetic and stifling to allow free reign to unbridled creativity. I'm sure I'm not the only one. (Of course, if you work full time for a creative agency and you're working in a conducive environment, surrounded by other creatives, maybe you don't have this problem.) And what other experiences of creative reawakening do we have out there?

by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a blogger, copywriter, editor...and born-again composer



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