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The Importance of Making Space

A favorite from the archives of 2011!

home_office_CCMaking space for your creative work is almost as important as making time for your creative work. When you have a work space that feels inviting and inspiring — even if it’s just the corner of a room — turning to your creative work feels like a delightful retreat, rather than just another item on your endless “to-do” list.

In her fabulous book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp notes: “To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit-forming.” When you have a space that calls to you, it’s easier to go there regularly. Regularity, as Tharp points out throughout her book (as the title would suggest), is the heart of creative output.

We all know Virginia Woolf’s famous dictum that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf was speaking about the feminist need for independence in order to create. Most of us probably feel comparatively liberated, despite the fact that we have children and Woolf did not — but her point is well taken.

Many of us don’t have the luxury of our own room or even the corner of a room to call our own. We take over the dining table when the muse strikes and then have to dismantle the work area when it’s time to eat. If this is the case for you, brainstorm ways to make this process as user-friendly as possible.

It’s also possible that there IS a nook or cranny lurking in your home that you could claim for yourself with a bit of re-thinking. Bring your creative skills to finding a space in your home that helps you return to your creative, authentic self as seamlessly as possible. And if you’re fortunate enough to have your own space, you might spend a bit of time in the coming month editing out anything in this space that doesn’t work for you anymore. Clean it up, organize, bring in a few fresh visuals that speak to you. Make it yours. Then, dig in.

What works for you?

“Without the studio, however humble,
the room where the imagination can enter
cannot exist.” ~Anna Hansen

This piece was reprinted from the Creative Times, our periodic newsletter. Click here to subscribe!

Photo courtesy Hiné Mizushima.

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Meme of the Week

picasso_meme

As found here. Happy Friday.

Meme of the Week

advice

As found here. Happy Friday.

10 Ways to Make the Most of 10 Minutes

One of the most popular pieces from our archives!

10 Ways to Make the Most of 10 Minutes

It’s a rare but beautiful thing: An unexpected gap opens in your otherwise overbooked day. You realize — with disbelief — that you’re actually “free” for a short window. No one’s hair is on fire and there isn’t anything urgent to take care of right now. Maybe the baby who never sleeps finally closes her eyes or your spouse takes the kids out on an errand or you’re between conference calls. Whatever it is, you realize that the next little bit of time is not yet spoken for. The window is too short to dig into a project, but you do have time for something.

If you’re like most people, you reflexively reach for your smartphone.

And then, before you know it, the unclaimed window has closed. The baby wakes up, the client calls, it’s time to head out — and those minutes are gone. Are you the better for how you spent them?

Don’t get me wrong: Downtime is important. Ten minutes of doing nothing has its value; social media and other internet temptations can, at times, serve as recreation. But more often than not, the interwebs become a crutch that we depend on because we’re in a short period of transition and we’ve conditioned our brains to need constant, fast-food stimulation. We don’t know what else to do — or we do know what to do, but we’re procrastinating because we’re over- or under-whelmed by whatever we really want to be working on. And just when we might benefit most from a screen-free breather, we’re particularly addicted to the glow.

Whether you’re using up minutes that aren’t otherwise spoken for or you’re avoiding a task you’d rather not do, use those 10 minutes to your advantage. Here are 10 “unplugged” ways to do just that.

  1. Meditate. Whether or not you already meditate regularly, a 10-minute break is a great opportunity to sit. Research demonstrates the substantial health benefits of meditation: it reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases focus, and reduces sensitivity to pain. Not sure how to meditate? Here’s an accessible introduction from Zen Habits.
  2. Write a poem. Short-form poetry is a lot of fun, and it only takes a few minutes to pen a haiku, tanka, or cinquain. Even if you’re unfamiliar with writing poetry, it’s deeply satisfying to solve the poetic puzzle of fitting your ideas into a time-honored structure.
  3. “Treat” read. You know that stack of magazines and journals that you never get to? Perhaps the New York Times Book Review that you set aside for “later,” or that tempting stack of One Story issues? Maybe an alumni magazine you want to peruse? That’s what I call “treat” reading — something that meets these three criteria: it’s short, unplugged, and somewhat indulgent.
  4. Exercise. Do 10 minutes of yoga, jump rope, or — if you have them — run up and down a flight of stairs (assuming you’re healthy enough to do so). A 10-minute burst of exercise boosts your concentration, mood, and physical well-being.
  5. Journal. Grab your journal — even if you’re a regular practitioner of Morning Pages — and gift yourself with a brief clearing session. Write out what you’re doing, what you’re not doing, what’s working, what’s not working. Keep your hand moving. Speaking from experience, 10 minutes of intense journaling can be an amazing stress reliever.
  6. Share the love. Dig out one of those blank cards or bits of stationary that are lurking in a drawer somewhere and write a brief note to someone you care about. It might be a thank-you note, a thinking-of-you note, or just a few lines that amount to “I’m so glad to know you.” Address your envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail the card next time you’re out. This act of gratitude has benefits for you as well as your recipient.
  7. Plot creatively. Grab a few index cards. Using one card per idea, outline a handful of important scenes that need to happen in your novel; the concept, colors, or basis for the painting that’s been kicking around in your head; a few possibilities for future blog posts. If you prefer visuals to words, use the blank side of your index cards to sketch or doodle.
  8. Prepare. Use a short interval to do some groundwork for a project: Gesso a canvas, sharpen your colored pencils, clean off your worktable or desk. If you don’t have any tasks in this category, spend your window filing bills or dealing with that “not sure what to do with this” stack of papers. It’s not sexy, but it sure feels good when it’s finished.
  9. Clip. Gather up a few old magazines (I keep a collection in my art area for this purpose) and flip through those glossy pages in search of collage materials. You don’t need to look for anything specific, just pull or clip the words and images that appeal to you. Save these clippings in a box for later collage work — and file anything else that sparks a story or project idea.
  10. Step outside. Use your brief break to get some fresh air. Go stand outside and marvel at whatever you see, feel, and hear. Raining? Enjoy the sound of rain hitting your umbrella. Snowing? Stand outside and be with it. Can’t go out because the kids are sleeping/watching TV/leaving you alone for a few seconds? Go stand by a window and breathe deeply. We all need to connect with nature, even if it’s just a few long-distance minutes with one straggly tree on the other side of a busy street.

What are your favorite ways to make the most of 10 minutes?

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Meme of the Week

28f3bfd4c9342a13b79f62104ea624d1

As found here. Happy Friday.

Monday Mojo: Beck Metzbower

Hello there, creative powerhouses! I’m thrilled to reinstate our regular interview series by introducing you to Beck Metzbower, a visual artist based on the US East Coast. You’re going to love Beck’s no-nonsense approach to being a fulltime working artist and reaching her goals. Find out what Beck has in common with Eleanor Roosevelt — and how she once found inspiration in a vending machine. Enjoy!



2017-05-13_09.03.04SM: Please introduce yourself.
BM: Beck Metzbower, contemporary artist.

SM: Tell us about your artwork and other creative endeavors.
BM: I make formal, highly textural work. And it’s abstract — meaning I can hide all sorts of lovely topics and statements within the work. I have a terminal master’s degree in visual art and choreography and, of course, a BFA in fine art. Both degrees were awarded by Wilson College. I exhibit nationally and internationally. I curate one yearly solo exhibit and I am so excited about a fall 2018 exhibit currently in the works.

SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
BM:
My career goals are very similar to anyone else’s — to expand, to create a strong brand, to accomplish several specific projects, to acquire more assets, to build a stable and working network of other creators and industry-related individuals. In addition to the exhibit scheduled for fall 2018, I’ve authored a book to be released in March of 2018. Those are two of my short-term goals in progress. Read more

Meme of the Week

KV

As found here. Happy Friday.

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