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The Creative Life

Here’s more evidence for the theory that messiness and creativity are somehow connected: W. H. Auden was apparently a disgusting pig. “The speed with which he could wreck a room,” said his friend James Stern, “was barely credible, certainly dangerous.” Another friend, Charles Miller, reported on Auden’s New York apartment after a visit (“Wystan” was Auden’s first name):

The coffee table bore its household harvest of books, periodicals, half-emptied coffee cups scummed over with cream, a dash of cigarette ashes for good measure, and a heel of French bread (too tough for Wystan’s new dentures?). An oval platter served as ashtray, heaped with a homey Vesuvius of cigarette butts, ashes, bits of cellophane from discarded packs, a few martini-soaked olive pits, and a final cigarette stub issuing a frail plume of smoke from the top of the heap, signature of a dying volcano. This Auden-scape reeked of stale coffee grounds, tarry nicotine, and toe jam mixed with metro pollution and catshit, Wystanified tenement tang.

Counterpoint: While my workspace at helveticka world headquarters is—compared to everyone else’s anyway—practically antiseptic, if it weren’t for my long-suffering wife, I would, in fact, be quite content to live in a steaming pile of my own filth. The first is a function of my need to work without distraction; the second is simple laziness.

So perhaps the purported link between creativity and clutter is more tenuous than we’d like to admit.



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