The characteristics of the perfect creative space are as varied and subjective as the myriad individuals who utilize such spaces. What makes an ideal space for one may be abhorrent to another. One writer, for example, may prefer the solitude of a quiet room with a closed door while another prefers the white noise and human bustle typical of the neighborhood café. One painter may prefer En plein air while another longs for the consistency of the indoor studio. Time and mood, too, play roles in an artist’s preferences. Perhaps yesterday the objective was to get out of the house and away from the dirty dishes, making the coffee shop, where the dishes are another’s concern, more conducive to working. Tomorrow the concern may be reducing caffeine intake and limiting sugary snacks, making the library a more attractive choice. Artists intuit this about themselves and constantly adjust in order to get their creative work done.
Artists also know that physicality of space is important to the creative process. The painter/sculptor must be able to make a mess; the musician must make noise without raising the ire of neighbors; the photographer must have space to store and use specialty equipment; and the writer must have a surface upon which to write or to place the computer upon which she types. In considering creative space, it is certainly useful to know that quiet is generally more conducive to creating than noise, that large spaces dissipate energy while small spaces concentrate it, and that distractions can prove homicidal to focus. But most important for creating is having the intention to create.
One of the ways artists undermine their intention to create is to focus on acquiring the perfect creative space – even waiting to create until everything about a space is perfect. Manuscripts are postponed until the perfect house on the perfect lane with the perfect view are purchased, occupied and decorated. Musical arrangements delayed until the ideal music studio secured. Great paintings left imaginary until just the right cooperative opens up. Then, once the perfect space is acquired, the artist becomes paralyzed by that very perfection. The writer is so stunned by the view beyond the windows of their dream writing space they never write a word. The painter becomes afraid to make a mess in their newly built studio with its hardwood floors. The sculptor becomes distracted by loft-mates or other artists member of the cooperative she has joined. The perfect space, then, is just another way perfectionism can thwart an artist’s efforts.
The intention to create, then, is every bit as important as the physicality of the space. The artist must ask – Is it really the thought of those dirty dishes that interferes with creating, or are those dirty dishes a convenient way to avoid facing the blank page, empty canvas or block of stone? Will the perfect creative space really improve the creative process, or will the act of creating improve the creative process?
Take into consideration other professions in which focus is crucial to success. The surgeon, the dentist, even the chef. None work in luxurious open spaces or demand astonishing views. They do not entertain distracting thoughts of inadequacy or images of failure while practicing their craft. They do not worry about the dishes.
Artists can take a note from the pages of the professional practice book and learn to focus just as intently to give the creative process as much consideration as a surgeon gives the patient beneath his scalpel.
Set an intention to create today and get to it.