In one of my all-time-favourite sitcoms – Big Bang Theory – the main character Sheldon Cooper is extremely sensitive about ‘his spot’ – the place on the sofa where only he is allowed to sit. Only he. Literally. Whoever else tries to sit there (usually Penny), Sheldon sees it as offence, a catastrophe, they start the argument, and Sheldon needs to explain what is so special about that seat. So, here we go: “In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it’s directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.” Yes – it’s bizarre. Nothing special about it for normal mortal people like you and me, but extremely important for Sheldon. But repeating these reasons over and over again at least makes Sheldon so irresistibly funny. Well, I can still laugh every time I see that.
Also, hearing that so many times made me think about my favourite spot regarding the work – place where I can work, read, explore, be creative and literally, get the work done. Do I have that spot? Where is it and what is so good about it? After all, why to think about the place? Isn’t a laptop and Wi-Fi all I need?
It made me think about the importance of creating and retaining my ‘favourite spot’. It is well known that, in order for creativity to happen, we need to create environment for it. But that environment is not only ‘an atmosphere’ where we can take risk, explore and allow new things or thoughts to emerge and creativity to happen. I definitely believe the physical place is as important as social environment. Not only for creativity but also for tasks that perhaps don’t require much exploration but simply peaceful time to complete them. I wouldn’t go into theorising about the importance of creative spaces but will just describe my places. It is not one single place, as it also depends on the nature of task, time of the day, and also my mood.
- Home office – I am fortunate enough to have a home office – one room designated only for work, containing many bookshelves and seemingly, lots of hands on information. I know that my academic hero, Pat Thomson, also writes from home and there are many places where she is talking about the writing space particularly (if you haven’t discovered her yet, please see her blog http://patthomson.wordpress.com). It works for her and many other academics. For me – it works partially. From my office window I see my neighbour’s beautiful garden full of flowers, plants, vegetables and other products of nature. But I also see my garden – big green ‘space for further development’. Very often I loose myself into thoughts about what can I do in the garden, when will I mow the grass, water it, etc. And the time passes by – I’m lost in thoughts, haven’t started writing, and haven’t even done the garden. Not good. However, at the evening I don’t see anything outside the windows and I can always embark in exploring or writing till the late hours. That room provides the oasis of peace I need to do more challenging tasks, as thesis writing and get things done, usually at the evening.
- Library spot – Whenever I come to my Faculty library, I choose the same place (if available) for reading and writing. The library is actually beautiful, designed in wood and glass, providing lot of natural sunlight and the warm atmosphere. The desks are placed just in front the glass wall, allowing me a view on beautiful grounds. Yes, the view is really beautiful and using only one desk can provide an atmosphere of freedom and openness in space – perfect for allowing the openness of the mind in exploring new ideas. The most important about this spot is the quietness of the library. No talks. Perfect. That’s just what I need when skipping through the pale of academic books in search for citations and references. Daunting work in the great atmosphere. Not so shabby after all, I guess.
- Costa coffee – No, this is not an advertisement (although I wouldn’ mind if Costa Coffee would support my PhD project in turn for advertising it :). But I really like that place. Firstly, they serve my favourite “SmallSkinnyGingerbreadLatte” – the taste I cannot get anywhere else. They also use nice colours for design and furniture. Some of the stores are designed as modern urban places (especially some in London), whereas others remind a bit of a home lounge with sofas and chairs. They offer free Wi-Fi as well – what else would I need then? There is something special about working from the coffee shop. Is it the noise of plates and cups, roasted coffee, the smell, or just the noise from people chatting, I don’t know, but it works for me. Maybe not in doing the challenging writing as developing complex arguments or deriving the theory, but it works pretty well for writing email, doing PhD administration, and editing texts. There is something in the sound of a coffee shop that there is even a company that provides coffee shop sound on your device – coffitivity (check the website www.coffitivity.com). I’m just sitting in my local Costa coffee now, in my favourite spot near the window and writing this blog post. Works great for me!
These three places combined work just good for my PhD journey currently. Each has something special and is a perfect match for some tasks. I’m open for new suggestions and trying new places. What is your favourite spot?