December 12, 2013

5 Steps to Increase Creativity in Your Workspace

To help you release all the awesomeness that you possess,  I’ve detailed five specific steps you can take to increase your productivity and your creativity. When your workspace flows, so will you.


Problem #1: Your workspace is schizophrenic.

Whether you are a writer, artist, teacher or software designer…you are a creative thinker.  Thoughts need to be documented and acted upon in the space you inhabit.  Your studio or office can help or hinder this process. Personally, I paint, sketch, use a lightbox, scan images, work in PhotoShop on my Wacom tablet and print. There’s a lot going on for one picture! I can’t have my oil paint (or coffee for that matter) anywhere near my computer or tablet.  I’ve learned that you should have different stations that are used for various purposes.  If you are a fine artist you know what I mean.

bookcase with dog

My Solution: Set up your desk in an L shape.  Keep your turps and wet paint on a taboret to the side of the drafting table.  That way, if there is a spill, it goes on that table and the floor, NOT on your computer, tablet or (God forbid) artwork. Same goes for your coffee, soda or adult beverage, keep it separate. On the long end of the L, keep your dry drawing/art materials (i.e. stuff that won’t kill your computer).  If you are working wirelessly, put your printer/scanner on a shelf away from these tables (the only thing on the work tables should be what you use on a daily basis). Everything else needs to be on shelf somewhere else in the room- accessible but not in your way. Basically everything within arm’s reach but not in your workspace. You don’t need everything on your desk!


Problem #2: Lack of task lighting.

My personal pet peeve.  Most people depend on overhead lighting- mistake. Color looks completely different under different lighting. For example, fluorescent lights cast a green color cast to everything, making skin color look sickly.  If you are working with color at all, it is imperative that you have the right type of lighting.

My Solution: You need a full spectrum light, as well as understand the basics of light temperature.   Look into the OttLite and do some research to compare other brands- you’ll see the difference. If you are a visual artist this is crucial.


Problem #3: Constantly being distractions

Dogs barking, kids screaming, doorbells ringing, laundry complaining to be done, haagen-daz calling your name, email crying to be checked, working at home can be a danger zone. Personally, for me it’s my dogs, “Pet me, love me, rub my butt, give me a cookie, walk me!”  If you have kids, it may be worse.  I know some people who pay for studio space when they have plenty room in their homes. “Why travel somewhere else when you can stay home,” I thought.  Well now I know why.  Privacy.

My Solution: If you don’t have separate studio space there are still things you can do to get some uninterrupted time.

  • Let your family know when you are absolutely not to be interrupted. For example, “On Mondays and Tuesdays between 6-9PM, unless your hair is on fire, I’m not here.”
  • Technology at your fingertips, isn’t it wonderful? No, not really. Put it away. If you are in the middle of writing the latest bestselling novel, you can’t keep checking to see if your friend texted you back about dinner. I put everything away one afternoon and I can’t even tell you how much I got done. You have no self control, you say?  Wait- there’s an App for that! Try Freedom, it’s an App that will lock you out of your social media for a time that you specify.  It’s not free, but if it helps you be more creative and productive, it may be priceless.


Problem #4: Where’s my stuff!

Nothing is worse that being in the moment of creation and not having what you need. This comes from a lack of organization coupled with TMC (Too Much Crap).flatfiles

Solution: Determine what type of storage you need. What do you have? Books? Flat art? Small art materials? Papers to be filed? All of these need different solutions.  For example, if you have mostly small items, then you need drawers, not a huge open book case.  Here’s what I did:

  • Flat Files: Being an artist, most of what I have is large and flat.  I have two Mayline flatfiles- I’ve moved them from 4 different apartments, up and down stairs in a three floor Victorian, and into their final ‘resting’ place. They are invaluable for organizing my paintings and sketches. They would be the last thing in my studio I ever got rid of. That’s priceless.
  • Swipe File:  Artists know what this is- it’s a collection of images for reference.  Writers can use this too, for setting and character development.  If you find that perfect landscape, a dark eerie bedroom, or an image of a mass murderer, it can help you formulate the descriptive words you need for your story. I know novelists who keep images of different types of people so they can derive a back story.  I personally keep images of textures- shiny metal, wood, glass so I may recreate it. This can all be kept in a filing cabinet, or even in smaller crate-type boxes (see bottom of image below).shelving


  • Library:  I never realized how many books I had until I had to pack them, move them and then unpack them.  They take up 4 full bookcases (I had to buy two more). I  don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I love them and use them frequently.  Keep a rich collection of books- you never know where your writing and art will take you.  I place them on my shelving by purpose: children’s art, poetry and writing, color theory, painting techniques, animals, etc. Just enough organization to know where it is when I need it.
  • Baskets on Open Shelving: My small, messy art supplies were the most challenging. I discovered that baskets on open shelving is the best solution.  It is readily available, yet disguised from view. Baskets are relatively inexpensive, and you can even spray paint them if they are the wrong color.


Problem #5: Lack of Inspiration:

Your environment must be exciting and comfortable-

  • There should be trinkets and images nearby that you love and are personal.  I’m not saying clutter- that is counterproductive- just a few choice artifacts that make you smile.
  • Inspiration/Vision Boards can be powerful.  Mine happens to be a 4′ by 8′ cork board (arguably a little ridiculous, but I love it).  Yours can be whatever size you need, just so it accommodates the images you want to put up. They should be filled with images of who you aspire to be, or what you want to write or make art about. Words, images, it doesn’t matter as long as you make an emotional connection to it.
  • Stuck for ideas to get out of your funk? Clean your studio! No, I am not a clean freak (ask my husband, he’ll tell you!) but it works. I find things I was looking for, I put things where they should be so I can find them easily later, and invariably, by looking at all of my creative materials, I get a new idea. Works like a charm.

It’s amazing how we sabotage ourselves- we have great ideas (in our head, of course) that never make it to fruition.  Too many ideas, not enough reality. Organize your space and you’ll let your creativity free. Have better ideas? Share them below!


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  1. Great post Denise! I definitely have TMC in my studio and it’s definitely a little schizophrenic at times. I think the nature of most types of creative work means lots of materials that end up EVERYWHERE! I find a good studio clean can work really well for me though – unfortunately it never stays clean for too long but it’s certainly a good step when things are out of control.

    I love your tip of using inspiration boards and inspiring trinkets and images. I have pictures and boards up on my studio wall and I love it!

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