Making space for creativity

Posted on March 28, 2020 by Sarah Robertson

Does time feel like it’s in short supply right now? In a matter of weeks, our routines, our lifestyles and our businesses have shifted beyond recognition, which means you might be struggling to make room for yourself. This month’s blog is a bit different from what we usually publish and looks at some of the simple ways you can fit creativity into your days. I hope it resonates with you.

Making space for creativity

This year, I started The Artist’s Way, a 12-week course on ‘Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self’. The group I’m facilitating is now on chapter 10, ‘Recovering a Sense of Self Protection’, which feels like a timely follow on from last week’s much needed deep dive into ‘Recovering a Sense of Compassion’. It’s been a struggle to keep up with it lately, but every Sunday night, we meet online to chat about what we’ve uncovered that week. And there have been so many benefits. But the most important, for me anyway, has been re-learning the importance of making time for my ideas, even if it’s just for 20 minutes upon waking or before sleeping, so I can feel fulfilled at the start or end of each day. I’ve shared a few hints and tips below which I hope will help you too.

Value your time
I found that once I shifted my mindset and made the decision to prioritise creativity, it became easier to adapt my approach to life and work. I quickly learned to say no to things that initially seemed like opportunities and yes to things that pushed me slightly out of my comfort zone. And I feel calmer as a result. We are in control of our time and how we spend our life minutes, but for the last few weeks, our time has been limited. I’ve had to turn my attention to caring for my daughter while juggling a home business, and the moments I’ve been setting aside for my interests are no longer there. So my plan, for now, is to keep it simple. To take small steps to engage in some form of creativity each week. And to protect that time as I know it supports my health.

Schedule in ‘mini creative dates’
Before lock-down, I was following a couple of online courses, going on photo walks and planning to launch our brand mentoring services and workshops. For now, I’ve had to drop the ball on some of these things, and so I’ve stripped my daily creativity back to journaling and planning, which I try to do each morning. And if I have extra time in my day (which, let’s face it, is at a premium), then I might try my hand at baking or gardening, usually with some help from our little intern. For you, meditation or calligraphy might be the answer. Anything that supports our minds will ultimately improve what we bring to our families or our businesses at this time. The important thing is to be kind to ourselves and remember that it’s okay not to be doing all the things we were previously doing if they’re not achievable right now.

Remove unnecessary distractions
I often leave my phone in another room or switch it off, or ask Jonathan to keep an eye on it, so I can resist reaching for it. I switch off notifications so my apps, such as Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp, already require me to open them to see comments and messages. I firmly believe that someone will call me in an urgent situation and so emails and the like can always wait for an hour or two, and I try and schedule in windows in the morning and late afternoon to read and reply. For you, the TV, music or other background noise might also be a barrier, in which case you could take yourself off to another room or pop on some noise-cancelling headphones.

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People generate more ideas and solutions to creative problems when they're at home than in any other single environment.

Set up a dedicated space
Is there a place in your home that you can dedicate to your creativity? Maybe your dining room, office or living room? Or are you lucky enough to have a whole area you can use for your creative practice? My space happens to be my sofa, where plants usually surround me and, if I’m in the mood, I’ll pop on a favourite playlist before getting down to journaling. Having your own space helps to give you the best start, as does having all the materials you need to hand so you don’t have to “set up” each time you want to create. You could also try changing your environment and moving furniture around, which has been shown to change our approach to thinking and problem-solving.

Connect and collaborate with others
Connecting with others over The Artist’s Way has opened my mind up to group programmes, and I subsequently joined in with others. While those are on hold for the time being, I’ve still been making connection a priority. In your daily life, this might look like having a group WhatsApp call with your friends or taking part in a virtual pub quiz. And in work, it could be anything from having a Zoom call over an email exchange to sending snail mail to a client or colleague. Throughout this time, let’s reach out to others and let them know they can reach out to us. It’s essential to set boundaries, of course, but it’s important to stay in touch too.

Keep an open mind
To paraphrase Donald M. Rattner in his article about ‘How to Use the Psychology of Space to Boost Your Creativity’, “People generate more ideas and solutions to creative problems when they’re at home than in any other single environment.” So I wonder if we could allow this situation to spark our curiosity? Maybe we can look at this challenging time from a different angle? Or is it an opportunity for you to pursue new interests? Our ability to wonder, and to search for answers, is what ignites creativity. So let’s try and work with this situation rather than against it.

There is a long road ahead for us all. There is much work to be done for businesses and families of all shapes and sizes. But this time could also be a catalyst for change in our approach to life and work. So, even if you can’t do it today, why not schedule in that course you’ve always wanted to try, join that mastermind group with a coach you admire or read that book that’s been waiting for you? Our time to be creative might look a lot different now, and may involve family and friends, but it all leads towards doing something productive for ourselves and each other. If we can be sure of anything, it’s that we’re in this together.