Coffee and the muse / by LW

Sketchbook, French Tintin pages, piccolo, and croissant with strawberry and vanilla jam made by the cafe proprietor himself, to his German-Swiss grandmother's recipe. I think I'm in love (with the jam).

Since arriving in Sydney, I have spent at least an hour or two of a morning sitting in a lovely little French cafe, drinking coffee.

The first couple of days, this felt like an indulgence; I do have coffee most mornings in Melbourne, but it tends to feel like a form of procrastination, as if being in a cafe means important work is not happening elsewhere.

However, as I've relaxed into this place and found my rhythm here, I have come to appreciate the role that this time can play in creative thinking. Because I am not due to be elsewhere – I have no work to get to, no meetings to catch – I find that I sit there, relaxed, sometimes sketching, sometimes writing, sometimes just staring off into space. And in doing so, ideas seep in, developing softly, until inspiration eventually coaxes me back to the studio to work.

This shift in thinking – to appreciate the role of quiet reflective time, is Number 4 in a concerted effort to change certain thought patterns over the past few months. It is very easy as an artist to put work ahead of well-being, and as my practice continues to grow I have become increasingly aware of certain problematic thinking patterns that do not promote a sustainable, healthy approach to my chosen career.

Number 1 was in regards to exercise, in my case swimming; rather than seeing it as another chore that needs to be ticked off the list, I have gradually shifted my thinking to move it into the realm of relaxation. It is now something that I do when I want to relax and enjoy myself, which, not surprisingly, has seen a marked increase in the amount of swimming that has transpired.

Number 2 is more significant and more difficult, as it involves assessing the value of a day's work: rather than judging the achievements of a day by visible productive outputs, I have instead been attempting to simply say: “I know I have been at work/at the computer/in my studio all day, so I must have done a productive day's work.” I am still not particularly adept at this conviction, but it is on the improve!

Number 3 is a more personal shift, though still important to my practice. It involves exposing my vulnerabilities and sensitivities a little more. This thinking was consolidated by a quote I found a few days ago:

Fill your papers with the breathings of your heart

– William Wordsworth

In the majority of my interactions with others, I suspect I come across as independent, capable, active and strong. And whilst these are qualities that I hold dear, there is also the part of me that is incredibly sensitive to people and situations, and that I keep removed from most. I am now shifting this a little, attempting to imbue my interactions with others with “the breathings of my heart”, to respond, when appropriate of course, with openness and vulnerability. In short, to acknowledge this sensitivity as an important element of my personality, and to let others see it a little more.

And Number 4 is to actively bring quiet time into my practice. To create situations where thinking can happen softly and incrementally, rather than happening because it should. This aspect of practice is probably one of the first to go when we get busy. And whilst we can function without it, this week has brought to light its importance, highlighting how much its loss impacts on our core creativity. Let us all find time to muse. With coffee. And perhaps a croissant.