The Creative Workspace: When “Stuff” Matters
Recently, I showed you how I made a second office using $25 and an extra closet.
I didn’t talk about the “decor” scheme in that posting, but obviously Star Wars propaganda posters, Sesame Street play figures, and other oddball factors won’t get me a House Beautiful center-spread anytime soon, but I really dig the space.
I’m a work-at-home type and my “day job” desk is in my living room, where I get a lot of natural light and don’t have to feel imprisoned for my 30-40-hour week, but it’s not exactly a haven of creativity. It’s a tasteful, organized desk that doesn’t overpower my living room. I can sit there on auto-pilot and do what needs doing. Functionally, it’s perfect.
By night, though, I’m a double-agent working a life of creativity and inventiveness as a writer and editor for hire, and I need a workspace that will fuel the kind of thinking I do. This led me to think about how we decorate our workspaces and how we create the work moods we need.
If you’re an accountant or something else that’s a very linear, functional job, then you need a functional, clean workspace. Who you are, what you do, and how you do it should absolutely influence your space, but if you’re an accountant, you’ve probably got this covered.
If you’re a designer of some kind, or an artist, a playwright, or events planner, you might need a space that fires you up creatively. How do you achieve that?
“Work” and “Living” Are Very Different Spaces
In my apartment, I keep clutter to a minimum and I’m always driving to lower the clutter even more. I want a minimum of art and simplicity is something I’m after. And because I work from home, I can’t have it be too visually stimulating in my living area or I’ll never have down-time.
My new workspace, however, is closed off from my main living area and I can go a little wild — and rightly so, because I need to dream of where the wild things are, pry into the dark places writers go, and invent worlds and characters out of nothingness.
If you have a door or screen to hide your space, you too can embrace your inner wild-child. You know you want to, because fact is, creative folks like us tend to be visually stimulated.
In my writing office, though, I want to be stimulated. There, I worked hard to raise the visual interest. Instead of a simpler approach in my living space, I’ve got all kinds of strange unrelated knickknacks and images cobbled together because of where it takes me, not how it looks.
Choose Pieces that Add Impact, Not Aesthetic
When you’re a creative, you need emotive pieces around you. They can be unmatched and contrasting. They can span the decor eras. You can have anything you want in here because it’s not a style throwdown. It doesn’t matter what dinner party guests think of your office.
Your office decor should be all about you. But let’s talk about me. (Har-har.)
I write, so I need stimulation and visual interest. And I ran out of spaces to hang my super-cool mirror, which leads us to what I’ve got going on now in the space.
It might have been a bold move, putting a large mirror eye-level at my desk, but I decided to take that chance. It’s literally about being introspective and reflective — pretty handy states for a writer. Pictures, art, poems, momentos — here, it’s not clutter, it’s creative fuel. From the poem Invictus through to “Oscar the Grouch”, all my choices are for deliberate stimulation.
Workspace decor as personal reminders
Those pebbles in that hippy-esque glass jar? The jar reminds me of where it most stood out, my childhood kitchen. A big, beautiful kitchen straight out of a ‘70s decor magazines, a reminder of everything from Sunday roasts to how stylish my mom was and that time the neighbor kids broke into the kitchen to steal her chocolate-chip muffins when we went to church. The pebbles themselves? They’re from my first big trip alone as an adult, where I drove for nearly four weeks through the West Coast, hosteling my way from Canada to Mexico. They came from a beach by a large, bloated whale carcass that developed into a highly personal metaphor about life and death.
The Hyundai logo? That’s just 140,000km of memories from the Yukon to Baja California, from my 21st birthday to my 30th. It’s not a car emblem, it’s the symbol for a whole chapter of my life.
All those little pieces remind me of my life, of the stories told on those days, the songs I might have heard, the smells in the air, the sounds on the wind. It’s a firestorm of memories and emotions and experiences, everything a creative person should have around them.
What is emotional, creative fuel for you? Notes, pictures, souvenirs — here’s where to really enjoy those little meaningful things you can’t let go of.
Your creativity, your self
As a creative, you know that as much as your output defines your career, it’s your input that defines your art. Whatever you surround and expose yourself to is what informs your art.
While I loathe clutter in much of my life, I’m all about keeping things that remind you of meaningful events, places, and people in your life. It’s like everything, though — if all the things are special, then none of them are. Make some of them special. Choose only the most powerful and interesting pieces. The pieces that evoke a gut reaction — your heart leaps, your breath catches, your eyes widen, you start to smile or laugh — those are the ones you really, really want around you in your creative space.
What do you need in your workspace? What do you want around you? Design it with your creative and professional needs in mind and you might take your work to a whole new place.