When I interviewed a renowned Italian architect at his studio in Rome in an old quarter of the city, he said he had moved from Paris back to his city of origin because he needed conflict to create. In Paris he’d won recognition, fame, commissions for major buildings, but he’d fallen into the trap of comfort and ease. “In Rome, it’s chaotic. There’s confusion everywhere.” He swung his arms in the air to illustrate. “People go on strike. They yell at you. I can’t get a taxi when I want. All of this makes me more creative,” he insisted.
Mad man, I thought. Give me peace and quiet and a mountain peak to write from. But after a month and a half in the mountains away from urban chaos, I feel the lack of material for stories. In bucolic splendor, amid tinkling cow bells and the rushing flow of the glacier blue river, my life evolves in harmony with the nature of the Swiss Alps. But historical writer, Barbara Tuchman says that while everyday life may be uneventful and happy, disasters and conflict pervade the news and stories of the past and present. It’s the catastrophes that capture our attention and we want to know what happens next. How did they resolve the problem? How did the story move out of conflict and back to a bucolic equilibrium?
On a picnic yesterday in a field of rock, tall grass and alpine flowers I ate lunch peacefully. This is not a story. A story begins if ants invade the picnic; other hikers on the trail chase me down and take my Swiss cheese, and I fall in a 30 foot chasm trying to valiantly hold on to my meal. If all goes well nobody really cares. It’s expected. On the other hand if it turns bad, the story begins.
The architect, after his move to Rome, has designed some of his most prolific and exciting buildings yet, including the mile long expanse of twisting and rising volcanoes of glass at the Milan World Trade Fair. In the end, perhaps the most success comes with a balance of both conflict and stability or serenity, especially in the writer’s creative life.
Copyright: Debra Moffitt, 2008 www.debramoffitt.com