Sunday, September 23

The city as metaphor for the creative process – the importance of getting lost

Talking of getting lost, a while ago, I keyed in some text from an interesting interview with Tom Waits that I’d torn out of an old issue of Uncut magazine:

When they originally met, Brennan [Kathleen Brennan – later to become Tom’s wife] was a script editor at Zoetrope studios. Tom was penning what became the Oscar nominated score for Coppola’s One From the Heart. The album required him to write in a style that he was trying to leave behind, and it was Brennan who helped him find the confidence, security and self-respect to follow his esoteric leanings and make the leap towards 1983’s Swordfishtrombones. Their working relationship developed gradually.

“The love came first”, nods Waits, “but we used to play a game called Let’s Go Get Lost. We’d drive into a town and I would say, “But, baby – I know this place like the back of my hand, I can’t get lost.” And she’d say, “Oh hell, you can’t, turn here, now turn there. Now go back, now turn left, now go right again.” And we’d do that all night, until we got lost...

(Source: Gavin Martin, Uncut, June 2002)

Underneath the bluster, Waits seems like a shy, private man, and a spinner of great yarns, so who knows if the story is literally true?

As a frequent visitor to London, I’ve wondered why it is that I always seem to end up in the same spots, despite the hundreds and thousands of possibilities in the centre. For example, despite my current entry point being Waterloo Station, I’ve never encountered nearby Elephant and Castle on my apparently random wanderings and attempts to “get lost”.

Why is this? I guess that given a specific starting point there are only so many initial choices. And when coming to a crossroads or fork, even unconsciously, it’s natural to choose the most “promising” and interesting looking road. A strategy that leads to a similar set of outcomes. In other words, to really explore it must be necessary to deliberately choose some unpromising initial options in order to arrive at new destinations.

I’d love to see a GPS type map plot of my London wanderings, but then I’m a bit a map obsessive.

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