This is going to be yet another bad weather inspired post, since the wind is howling outside as I type away. The draughts are also doing their level best to sneak in down the chimney and up through the cracks between the floorboards. It is getting distinctly chilly in here, despite the leopard patterned draught excluder and the so-called thermal lining in the curtains. This is one of those days when despite all ones efforts to keep cosy, the cold seeps into the bones and stays there.
Now this has made me stop and think a little about the vexation of cold weather and what effect it might have on creativity. Moreover, by creativity, I mean the act of writing, which is by its very nature a sedentary occupation. The only exception would be that if you were rich and famous you could afford a secretary. You could then pace up and down tossing golden nuggets of prose to a devoted acolyte who would sit typing and be cold instead of you. Of course, if you were a rich writer (generally regarded as a contradiction in terms) then you would be able to afford a more than Bob Cratchit type blaze in your fireplace and then nobody would be blue tinged anyway.
Now can I have a quick show of hands from my readers? How many of you are sitting at the computer right at this moment wearing fingerless gloves? Are you even just pausing to rub your cold hands every now and then? Hmm, I had a suspicion that it wasn’t just me that felt the cold while tickling the keyboard. Sometimes as I tuck a throw over my lap and even nestle a hot water bottle behind my back I feel that I am preparing for a journey. However, I do draw the line at wearing a woolly hat indoors. Then that’s me set for a while (oh, I forgot the steaming mug of coffee didn’t I?) Well all of that insulation should keep out the cold for a while and ensure that the little grey cells remain fully functional for at least an hour. My brain tends to get slower as I get colder, not to mention my stiff little fingers.
But am I being terribly self indulgent in a comfort loving twenty first century way? After all, it could not have been very warm at Haworth in the long Yorkshire winter. Did Charlotte Brontë shrivel up in the cold and declare that she was simply too cold to write any more? In the past centuries, writers of all stripes must have had to be creative under conditions that we just do not have to consider any more. When did Jack Frost last paint scenes on the inside of your living room window? With central heating and double-glazing we cannot claim that our houses are anywhere near as cold as in times past (even if we are watching the fuel bills carefully these days). How many writers of the past crouched over a tiny fire with only a candle for light and a tad extra warmth? Add a basin of gruel and the picture is complete.
There must have been a degree of physical suffering involved in sitting writing for any length of time. I wonder if that degree of physical discomfort aided the concentration. Or did writers just have the sheer determination to struggle on regardless of chills and aches. Recently I found myself getting slower and sleepier as I was trying to complete a blog post. I had to take a break, move around a bit and get hot soup into me before I could think lucidly again. Clearly, I must lack the stamina of my ancestors (both literal and spiritual). I cannot help feeling that minor hardships like my chilly extremities should act as a spur to activity rather than having the reverse effect. Unfortunately, I find that as a general rule a little warmth does wonders, I work much better when cosily situated. On the other hand, a brisk walk on a chilly morning can have a stimulating effect on my thought processes. Cold plus fast forward motion equals mental gymnastics.
Now tell me, what works for you…?