I once asked my friend what she thought the inside of her mind looked like.
She thought it looked like a room full of filing cabinets. Rows upon rows of metal drawers, filled with folders, stuffed with papers. Everything was marked by its subject, lists and scribbles and waking thoughts organized by relevance and completion. Sheets of hastily sketched ambitions pulled out restlessly for constant amendment before being refiled, re-shelved, stashed and awaiting further inspiration.
Her mind is more organized than mine because mine doesn’t have filing cabinets.
My mind is a wooden desk against one of four walls. The room is dimly lit, and there are notebooks everywhere. Some of them are spiral-bound, some are composition, and I’ve been writing in them for my whole life. When I think, when I create, I shuffle through the pages like a mad scientist with a bright, bubbling concoction in one hand while the other is frantically searching for the right protocol.
On top of the desk are tens or twenties of notebooks open, strewn about and lying recklessly atop each other like affectionate adolescents at a slumber party. Thinking is frantic, like flipping through pages to find that one sentence that I know is inscribed somewhere. But where? There are notebooks on the floor, notebooks on every surface. There are bookshelves all stuffed to the breaking point and all the books are underlined and highlighted and stowed away for future reference.
There is a laptop on the desk – atop some books, under others – and its background is set to a picture of a recording studio with the words “Make Something Often” inscribed above the speakers and the dials. I put it there because it reminds me that art is the sort of thing we only get better at if we are constantly creating, constantly producing, like a word generator but with more feeling, more spontaneity, like a snowflake factory that produces impossible amounts of the same thing at rapid speed while no two creations are exactly the same.
The key is to keep making things, and that’s why all those notebooks are always open, always sprawled out over the desk and the floor, always underlined, always highlighted in. The flow is constant and the mind becomes a city that never sleeps. Elements are perpetually being broken down and re-synthesized into something different, fit into innumerable molds and positions and then analyzed independently to determine precisely what they’re made of.
When we keep making things, some of it will be bad. Some of it will be broken. Some of it will need fixing and some of it will be entirely beyond redemption. But only then – in making mediocre things frequently – do we get to the rare gem that emerges out of the ashes of failed attempts.
The inside of my mind is disorganized, disheveled. I imagine some people have chests of drawers inside of theirs – filing cabinets, folders, paperclips, even post-it notes stuck to the walls and stuck to the pages. Some will have technology, some will have an atmosphere of utter silence and complete focus, but mine will always be pens and pencils and notebooks.
But in the end it doesn’t matter, and we are all working with something beautifully different.