When I was younger than I am now I had the idea I’d live in a motor home. Where everything is small and tidy and takes up exactly the amount of space it needs and no more. Beds turn into tables, cupboards fix shut, the television and toilet disappear when not in use. The only variable in the home would be me.
We have scientifically calculated exactly how many litres of water each fish needs in a bowl, but it’s not clear what space humans need. The US government doesn’t define how many square feet prisoners need. There’s a rumour that 35 square feet is needed per child in school, but that’s not official. In any case, I was always confident I needed as little room as possible to be happy. In fact, the smaller and more contained I was, the happier I was. And I, personally, wanted to be as neat and tidy as the places I lived. I wanted to be a container with no loose hinges or uncertain fixtures.
There’s a “Colour outside the lines” movement that suggests to be creative you must be a mess, you must not care if you don’t hang up your jacket or put your shoes in the closet. You must live with abandon, and accept the chaos others throw into your life. Fight that chaos and you reveal yourself to be part of a system of repression that kills artists. You will never be an artist yourself. You’re too structured. You’re too dull.
Bullshit. A seed is a very neat container. A flower bud, too. A neat container does not mean the contents are dull or stunted. They might be the beginnings of a universe. I begin with everything in its place and from there I can go anywhere. I am contained, my creativity is not. I have a little space, I have a lot of imagination. I am the variable and I always will be.