Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cultivating Space for Creativity

While answering an email, your phone bings. Text message. Thought derailed. You've got one eye on your phone and the other on the Netflix window open in the corner of your screen as the action music rising means the climax of the plot is too. Your screen. You need to be editing photos. Focus on your keyboard again. Oh yeah, there's that email you were answering.

How are we going to create anything new and fantastic when we're already filled to the brim with bings, clicks and door bells?

It took far too long as a creative professional for me to realize purposeful space has to be cultivated in order for creativity to come alive. Our current culture is not to stop but to stimulate. We always need more, more, more! But not until you empty your mind of some things can anything else enter.

This makes sense, but how do you go about creating this type of space?
If you're not able to afford that huge workshop in those amazing yurts on the side of that gorgeous ocean cliffside, that's ok. You still need to find space to prepare, grow and maintain your creative side.

This might look different for different folks. For us, it usually means getting back to nature and soaking in the stillness surrounding some of the original creations. Near a body of water? Even better! There is something about a running river flowing that helps me take a deep breath and let go.

At home there are so many distractions. The dirty laundry, unframed prints and dishes in the sink are mounting up and preparing for a battle no book has a chance against. Sinking into my hammock while the breeze blows through the trees is one of the best recipes I've found for great reading and expanding my thoughts. Ideas can literally begin growing right up from the ground beneath you.

Depending on how much time we have, here are a few of the ways we create space, clear our minds and anticipate fresh ideas:

  • One week:  From time to time we'll take about a week and go somewhere where no one knows who we are. We still take our computers, drives and camera equipment and get our work done as usual. Instead of scheduling shoots, meetings or any other out-of-office work, we take that extra time to read new books on marketing, practice new techniques with our cameras or go on a hike to flesh out ideas or think of new ones.
  • One day:  We call our family and friends up and tackle a project together. One of the things we've come to love doing is gardening with our family—literally cultivating. Getting our hands dirty feels good and the rewards taste delicious. The community and process that goes into a project like this are worth so much.
  • One afternoon:  If we find a late afternoon free, you might find us escaping to another world just down the street—the movie theater. Going to catch a flick at either one of the two art cinemas by our place can really get our creative juices flowing. Our cell phones have to go off and we are immersed into something brand new for two hours. Afterwards, we like to "decompress" and share our thoughts about the work over coffee or a drink.
  • One 15-minute break:  There are days when there's so much to do going to the bathroom feels like a privilege. But in these days there is still a 15-minute window somewhere that can be used to the max. For us, fresh air and sunshine are key factors to maintaining clear, healthy minds to keep churning out creative work. Whether it's a walk to the park and back or a bike ride to go pick up groceries for dinner, even just this short amount of time can help us reset and keep going strong. 

The key to all of these things is that they have to be done purposefully. If you let an empty day stay on the calendar, it will. get. filled. Making time and carving out space for creativity to re-enter your life is not lazy or weak. If you're a creative professional, cultivating time for creativity is part of your job—as soon as you treat it as such, wondrous things will begin to happen.

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