creating a/broad, March 1, 2014
by Cameryn Moore
I have escaped the Mile-End meat locker, that overpriced, underheated Montreal sublet with a terrible, passive-aggressive roomie. Two months ago I was sure I would end up spending the most miserable winter of my adult existence there. Now I am out, and writing this missive from the freedom and comfort of a friend’s house on L’ile Perrot, a suburban town located 30 minutes’ drive outside of Montreal. I’m house-sitting while my friend is away at clown school until the end of March—I love that I can count both professional and aspiring clowns among my friends—and I think/hope he can swing it for April.
Rent-free, my friends. That’s one of the most salient points in the arrangement. Because the location has little to recommend it to inveterate city-dwellers such as myself. This is firmly the suburbs. No buses or metros connect from Montréal to here; you have to take the commuter rail or have someone pick you up from a bus stop on the next island over. A café finder app has thus far revealed that the closest seven cafés to my current location are, in fact, Tim Horton’s, but I am willing to consider my removal from boho central a bargain price for not having to see my breath fog in the frigid bathroom.
All the shows and events that I really want to go to are far away now! Um.
And while I know perfectly well that many works of art have been created in less-than-physically comfortable environments—in downright bleak conditions, in fact—I long ago stopped believing that I have to suffer for my art. On the creature-comfort front, I might say that the sum of my ambitions is to NOT suffer for my art.
I don’t mean, 'wallow in the penthouse pool level' of not suffering. I have always only ever wanted to make enough money from my art to pay the rent and touring/travel costs, buy new winter boots every five years, and eat decent food. Maybe once or twice a year get a drink at a bar and not feel like I’m breaking the bank. And be able to sit out at the kitchen table and pound away at my typewriter or laptop and not freeze my feet off.
I’m a simple woman with simple dreams.
Now that I’m out here and sitting in this new isolation, it’s easy to romanticize what I left behind. These were not questions of comfort, but of ambiance, and I think, upon scrutiny, I will be fine for a couple of months. I can’t walk to my favourite café and sit there for hours! Oh wait, it was usually really, really hard to get a table near an outlet, and those lattés were expensive. I can’t walk around the corner to the dépanneur and get awesome Asian noodles and cheap apples! Yeah, and stock up on another bag of chips while I was there. All the shows and events that I really want to go to are far away now! Um. I didn’t go to many of those when I was only a 10-minute bus ride away, so how much am I really missing out on? I always talk about Montreal as my creative retreat, but let’s be honest, it has a lot of distractions from creativity.
This place, this will be my retreat. I can do this. There is a clean dining room table, and a coffee pot that keeps the morning coffee warm for a long, long time. (I just went to get some hot coffee right now.) There is a view out of the front living room window, and a place to keep my car parked and not worry about towing.
I get enough pushback and blow-back and bullshit on the social and psychological level.
There is space here for me to stack my bags and suitcases, spread them out from time to time, and do my annual 'housecleaning': what needs to go with me on the plane to the UK, what needs to go in the car on the North American tour, what needs to stay here in Montreal. (The answers are, respectively, hardly anything, not much, and everything else, which is still not much.)
Oh yes, and did I mention the kitchen? I get to be a grown-up again, with a fully functioning oven and space to keep baking supplies. If I have any hobby, anything that easily takes me out of my writing head and just as easily allows me to go back in, it’s cooking and baking. Wherever I create must have facilities for that, and a roommate or roommates who not only don’t mind me getting elbow-deep into flour, but will joyfully eat up a few samples while we sit around the table and discuss our latest creative stumbling blocks.
My space must be homey and friendly and warm. I didn’t realize how much this was true until I left the place where it wasn’t true. I don’t know for sure how my temporary new surroundings will affect my creative output, but I do know that I do not need to suffer for my art, not physically. I get enough pushback and blow-back and bullshit on the social and psychological level. My physical space needs to be as comfortable as I can muster.
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