Yesterday I was sent a photo from 1996. It got me remeniscing about all the places I’ve called home. The red passat was packed and ready to go, the bike rack mounted on the boot with the family’s two-wheelers just visible, the viewpoint railing in the background slightly burnt out by the bright sunshine. The younger versions of ourselves smiled for a family portrait, posing before the journey that would take us towards the next chapter of life’s adventures. Back then there were only four of us, in our nineties clothes and looking rather foreign. We said goodbye to the South of Spain and headed inland to rural Extremadura, leaving one home for another.
Moving was part of my childhood. Enough times to bring a feeling of adventure and not so many as to turn it into a dreaded event. Home may have changed shape and size and location over the years, but there were elements that stayed the same.
Books would be present in every room. I would always have a collection of notebooks. Hospitality was offered often. Coversation flowed across the kitchen table and stories were shared over meals.
In every home I would find a place that felt just right. Pen and paper, a patch of sunshine, and I’d be happy. A quiet corner and a book and I’d be content.
What is it about our surroundings that inspires us? When and where do we do our best work? Is it a room, a desk, a house, a mood? What does the space we choose say about us? In today’s post I want to unpack some of these elements and share three things you can do right now to help foster creativity.
What does your space look like?
Space during quarantine has taken on a different meaning. Or at least we look at space in a different way. Our homes, our rooms, our backyard our rooftops. We’re spending more time than ever in our homes.
Our homes say quite a lot about us. They can highlight socio-economic differences. As we have seen during this pandemic it is one thing to spend lockdown in a house with a garden and pool and quite another to spend it in a tiny apartment with little natural light. And that’s just in the West. What would you make of spending 35 days in a one room house with a family of five?
Lockdown has provided other insights into our homes, as videocalls, work meetings and livestreams from our living rooms have provided glimpses into each others’ spaces.
From decoration, to our choice of furniture and the objects we surround ourselves with, the spaces we inhabit speak volumes about who we are and what we value.
Curating our surroundings to inspire our work
I am writing from my desk by the window, piles of notebooks, bits of paper and pots of pens cover most of its surface. The notice board on the wall above is covered in quotes, poems, postcards, illustrations and photos.
I have taken time to create this space, to make it my own, to fill it with things that bring me joy, things that inspire me and encourage me to create.
Sometimes writing is a rooftop with pen and paper, sometimes it’s the notes app on my phone. It often looks like a laptop and post-its and possibly a scented candle. Mostly it’s my desk, a closed door, and a peaceful moment to put thoughts into words.
Your space may look complety different. Maybe space is not be a big part of your creative process. Maybe you find you can create anywhere. This in itself reflects who you are as a creative and your creative preferences.
When it comes to creative spaces, there is no right way or wrong way, there is only your way.
How do you develop a creative process?
Unsure how to get those creative juices flowing? I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I think it’s fair to say there are as many creative processes as there are creatives. Everyone has their own way of doing things and most of them are developed over time, as you begin to discover what works for you and what does not.
Early morning, late at night, somewhere in between. With music or in silence. At home, at a cafe, in a studio, in nature. Starting from notes or a sketch or diving right in. What works best for you?
I listened to Olivia Gatwood, an American poet, give some wonderful advice the other day on how to discover and develop your creative process. She advises, next time you are in the ‘zone’, the moment when you are at your most creative, pumping out words (or artwork or whatever), take note of what that moment looks like and what lead to that moment. Are you by a window? Are you listening to music? Did you eat recently, did you just wake up? Have you spent time outdoors? Have you been reading? Did you meditate? Is it noisy or quiet? Is it morning or night? What can you smell? What can you see? What room are you in? What is the temperature like? Then, next time you want to get creative, try and replicate that experience. Over time you will become aware of what works best for you and you will be able to recreate those conditions to fuel your work.
Creative work is still work
Both Picasso and Matisse believed inspiration strikes when you are hard at work. Most writers mention some sort of routine. Rather than wait for the muse to arrive we need to be ready to put in time and energy to develop our creativity. Success doesn’t come over night. Practice and persistence are key.
The perfect time will never exist, the best time is often now. If we keep waiting for conditions to be perfect we may never find a moment to create.
So, what can we do to foster that creativity? Here are three simple things that can help.
- Make space. By this I mean both phisically and mentally prepare to create. Clear away the clutter from your desk or prefered creative corner, make room for your new project. You may find something you’d discarded that sparks new ideas. Then focus your mind on what you want to create and try to leave other worries aside and turn off distractions. If you need a bit of inspiration, try taking a look at other works you admire.
- Create a routine. Set a specific time for creating and try to stick to it. If you have an hour, great, focus for that hour. If you only have ten minutes, that’s ten minutes more than you would otherwise have dedicated to your craft. Once you know what works best for you you’ll find repetition helps you get into a creative mindset and make the most of the time you have.
- Just start. Stop putting it off and finding excuses. Start today, start now. Once we start, it’s easier to keep going. Sometimes it just takes getting over that first hurdle. Not everything we create has to be perfect, in fact most things we create won’t be, but at least we are training our creative muscle.
Now, over to you! What does your creative space look like? When and where do you prefer to create? I look forward to hearing about your creative process in the comments.