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An Arts Festival Is No Time To Get Creative by Tara Sparling

Writing.ie | Magazine | The Big Idea

By Tara Sparling

Writing in a café is hard: I don’t know how J.K. Rowling did it. Writing in a café during an arts festival is even harder.

I remember back when the Galway Arts Festival was the only arts festival that people had ever heard of. From Cork to Moate, and from Dublin to the R245 outside Letterkenny, the world, his wife and her podiatrist all knew about the Galway Arts Festival (now International, if you please). Yet, despite having been in Galway over the years both immediately before and after the Arts Festival, I never managed to be there during the event itself. So off I went last week, with my laptop on my back, thinking to soak up some of the atmosphere, and write.

You might think that creativity is osmotic. Well, let me tell you. At the Galway International Arts Festival, there’s creativity pouring down from the sky, oozing down the gutters and lying in kaleidoscopic little pools at peoples’ feet. It should have been a grand place to repair a broken chapter, by all accounts.

On Friday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a chain-brand coffee shop establishment on High Street (because all the cool places were full up with the cool people). Also, it offered free wifi, and I wanted to check and see if I’d received any more death threats since my last blog post.

The centre of Galway was inordinately sweaty. So was I. The temperature was 200 degrees plus 20 litres. It had taken me 45 minutes to get down Shop Street, where the only people moving were moving backwards, whilst looking to the left, pointing to the right, and stopping every half-shuffle to do a kind of jig-stomp-pincer movement upon any foolish pedestrian with an actual destination in mind.

I was not feeling very creative at this point, yet I soldiered on, because I am tenacious, and because nobody would agree to meet me for another four hours. I completed a complicated strategic manoeuvre for the solitary coffee drinker, involving the ordering of beverages and use of the toilet whilst simultaneously bagsing a desirable table upon which to write. Satisfied, I opened the laptop.

First, I spent a half hour wrestling with “free” wifi, before giving up on the Internet in general. Swearing and raining curses down upon Bitbuzz and all who sailed in her, I realised there was no alternative but to write. The Galway Arts Festival was finally to inspire creativity, by dint of limited connectivity! Huzzah!

Then the shouting started. A gaggle of south-western continental teenagers began to scream at each other inside the café. Sometimes waving about the straws from their larynx-fuelling sugar bombs, sometimes gesticulating madly, despite their impassioned cacophony, they made no facial expressions whatsoever. The girls beside me sounded like they may have been auctioning cattle. I think their compatriots at the counter were commentating on the recent World Cup. Either way, I can tell you that although neither side won the battle of the conversational crossfire, the loss was all mine.

I ploughed on. My chapter was a mess. It needed chopping, pasting and carving, before the inevitable realisation that it needed rewriting, the sum of its existent parts to be consigned to the little trash can in the sky. It was a big task. It felt like a mammoth one.

The charming busker with the cheeky patter just outside the door beside me didn’t care. It has to be said that he had a fine set of lungs on him; his speaking voice was almost as fine as the nonchalant tones of the chanteuse standing just ten feet away from him, singing French songs. Her voice was so smoky I almost took a drag. A Parisian café crept into my writing. Thankfully I deleted it just in time, because my book is set in the west of Ireland.

When the protest march arrived, I was reminded of the student of mindfulness, who trekked to the top of a mountain to meditate for a month in solitude, only to find out that his hut faced directly on to a popular tourist trail. Back in my hut in Galway, the café doorway proved an excellent spot for the protesters to shout slogans. This intimidated the cheeky busker and the chanteuse, if not the commentating continental auctioneers, who were now leaving. Noisily.

Having convinced everyone on the street that their cause was, in fact, the only cause, the protest march moved on, and five middle-aged Mediterranean tourists poured in to the café, to sit down as close to me as possible (although sadly, my knees were unavailable). They shared one coffee amongst them, provoking what appeared to be spirited discussions about the questionable merit of their overstretched beverage. This went well for them. Not so much for me.

Eventually, it was time to leave. My chapter was unfinished. On the plus side, I had something else to write about.

Next time I want to be creative, I will go somewhere more suitable. Like an accountancy rave. Or a cemetery.

(c) Tara Sparling

Tara Sparling writes novels, short fiction and screenplays. She spends all of her spare time with words – the writing of them, and the reading of them. This takes some of the harm out of the fact that her day job in finance is all about numbers: pushing them around, extracting meaning from them and sometimes insulting them.

Tara’s blog www.tarasparlingwrites.wordpress.com looks at best-selling book statistics, genre and thematic trends, literary and mathematical humour; exploring the realities of traditional and self-publishing, marketing tips, bizarre success stories, and spectacular failures.

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