man cave noun Informal . a room or other area in a home that is primarily a male sanctuary, designed and furnished to accommodate the man's recreational activities, hobbies, etc. Dictionery.com
During my latter years at school while studying my GCSEs and A Levels I began to understand the need for a cave. Of course still being at school and living at home I had a ready made one - my bedroom.
As a teenager in the early days of developing an interest in design, that cave allowed me to create the atmosphere I needed to work. I had a drawing table set up where I would work on creative pieces and study for my exams. It had a light that bent over me shining a focused beam on my work space and plunging the rest of the room into darkness. I had some of my most productive evenings at that table. In fact I have long standing memories of working on my graphics coursework close to a deadline with the masters snooker on my little tv and that light beaming a zone of creativity onto my table.
Moving to uni I again had my own ready made cave. The room in my halls of residence quickly became the place for all my creative work. Angle poise shining on my desk, laptop on, a dark room and momentum building music on late in to the night. Then the bedroom in my shared house in the final two years at uni and the first year in employment had a similar feel, but replacing my laptop with my iMac.
I miss those caves.
Since I’ve been living on my own I’ve not really had a cave. A flat with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom doesn’t really lend itself to creating one. The living room is a place for relaxing, eating and hosting visitors. The bedroom is for sleeping and relaxing, I need it to be purely for that else I’ll never shut down properly to sleep.
The quest for a cave
Since I’ve no space for a desk and no closet I could convert into a cave I’ve been exploring ways to create an environment that can be quickly and easily set up, then easily removed when I have visitors.
I’ve always tried to zone my living room so that I have a lounge area and a dining area. The dining area is the only bit of my flat that I can sit down and do work at and so it’s become the centre of my quest for a cave. The table lamp which used to sit on my dining table has been removed and replaced with my angle poise. My laptop now has a home on the table and my wired Apple keyboard and Logitech mouse have come out of storage. All of them can be quickly packed away when visitors are around and for the first time in a few years I’ve been able to begin creating that cave like atmosphere as I work by the light of my angle poise. I can even do it with my iPad instead of the laptop should I wish.
Whilst it’s not quite the same as a permanent cave, it’s a step in the right direction until I’m able to afford a place with room for a permanent cave. Most importantly it’s already having an impact on the way I’m working in the evenings on my own projects as well as on personal freelance clients.
But the lesson that I’ve learnt, in this little exercise is that actually it’s not necessarily about having a physical space, it’s about atmosphere. In order to foster creativity I need the right atmosphere, a permanent place makes that easy to create but the quest for my cave isn’t really for a physical space at the moment. It’s about a way for me to recreate the atmosphere of my early and original caves. It’s about developing a method that allows me to quickly set up at my dining table and focus. Events over the last few weeks have caused me to realise specifically that by my very nature I’m a night owl and not an early bird. Maybe that has something to do with my atmosphere…