Creative Space

Building your creative environment: Both inside and out

Creative space is a concept embracing the mental, physical, and emotional environments within which creativity operates. It can't be given to you by your manager or spouse - it is something you must carve out and claim for yourself.

Creative space is a concept that is rich in possibilities and opportunities. It is the sum total of what nurtures, supports, inspires and reinforces our creativity. It thus includes ourselves, our families, our fellow workers, our reinforcing memories, our cuing systems, and our favourite places. Examples include: house, office, garden, spouse, children, friends, colleagues and places of recreation.

The definition of creative space becomes more manageable when broken down into:

  1. The individual
  2. The environment
  3. Interface between the two
The interface has to have several characteristics:

a) A good "Impedance Match" allowing a flow of energy to take place allowing change and movement to take place.

b) Suitability for the current phase of the creative process - adaptable and variable with suitable resources

c) Personal renewal - most easily and powerfully supplied by nature - the outdoors, sounds of wind and water, flowers, trees, birds, lots of nature vistas, and living, growing things around. It's especially important to have plenty of light and air available. Other things to include are music, books, toys and stimulating people when you need them.

d) Mutual Nurturing

e) Portability - elements of it should mentally follow you. The creative space that you carry around in your head is the most important of all. An ideal creative environment would be a physical metaphor of the whole-brain creative process and would appeal to all four quadrants of the brain.

There are only a few minimums that a fixed physical environment should have to serve the creative process:

1. Capture system. When illumination comes in bits and pieces or all at once, it's important to collect the pieces until they begin to fall into a completed pattern. Capture systems include a pencil and pad, a journal, dictating machine, index cards. "Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one has not the time to write down" Hector Berlioz.

2. An incubation display. It's important to have a work table or bulletin board for displaying materials accumulated in the preparation process.

3. A place to create. Work table, computer, musical instrument, tape recorder, artists materials, easel. The main requirement is enough space to accomplish the task at hand and where work can be left mid-process without having to be cleaned up.

4. Affirmative messages for the individuals. Signs on the wall, eg "Writer in residence", "My creative corner", "I claim this creative space". Anything that stimulates - quotations, articles, pictures and awards.

What you'll find is that the act of setting up a nourishing, physical environment for your creativity is in itself a creative process.

These notes are taken from Ned Herrmann's book The Creative Brain
Last updated: 4th October 1996