True Creativity requires a mind that is content, at rest and relaxed. Have you ever noticed that your best ideas come when you are most at peace and relaxed? Like when you are drifting off to sleep (and hoping you can remember it in the morning), having a shower or out for a walk.
In those moments, we are not distracted by the worries or stress of everyday life. Out minds have space to create. To enter that flow state, where we can put our full attention into our thinking and creating.
But is it possible to create this environment and state of mind more often, or for longer amounts of time, so that we can work more creatively and let the ideas flow more easily? Or how do you spark your creativity when you just aren’t feeling it? Those moments when you are drained, unmotivated or having creative block.
Us creatives tend to be very passionate people and will easily burn ourselves out as we work and work and work, and find more than enough side projects to work on as well. But feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and stress put our mind into survival mode. When in survival mode our bodies feel that stress as if you were being chased by a lion. Is it no wonder then that we find it hard to get into a flow with our work and think creatively. Our body is focused on keeping us safe and alive. This means all our internal energy and thought is invested in thinking about our body and our environment. But to work creatively, we need to be focusing inwardly, focusing our brain power on creation and drawing ideas together from experiences, knowledge and memories.
So in order to become better creators and work in that flow state, where it comes easily, you lose track of time as you immerse yourself in your work, you first need to get out of that stressed state of being and get into a place of calm and free from the distractions that cause our minds to worry.
HOW TO CREATE A CALMER ENVIRONMENT TO WORK IN
By creating a calm space to work in, you are eliminating some of the distractions and stresses that will interrupt your creative flow. Even if your day has been crazy, you are feeling drained and uninspired, if you have a space that rejuvenates and inspires you, you will more easily be able to get into a better state of mind to work and create.
Here are a few ideas of how you can create a calmer environment for your creative space.
- Natural light and plants. Things that bring nature into the indoor space. Something as simple as having your workspace near a window can really help lift your mood. Nature is amazing at calming and inspiring us and uplifting the mood.
- Reduce clutter and mess. Keep the things that inspire you and fuel your creativity and remove or hide the things that create mental clutter and will bug you in the back of your mind. It can be simple small things too that can make a big difference. I used to have a bin in my office, but it made things feel messier with rubbish always in the corner. By removing it, all rubbish had to be taken out of the room, making it overall feel cleaner and nicer.
- If you have a lot of supplies, organise them well so they don’t feel messy and all over the place. This also makes it easy to find what you need, so you can easily grab the tool you need and keep working.
- Play calming sounds/ music/ white noise. Not distractions. I used to watch video while I worked, but I realised it was slowing me down and splitting my focus. These days I used brain.fm for focus music. But do what works best for you and your personal preferences. It could be as simple as a fan whirring in the background, or playing relaxing jazz tunes.
- Look at what distracts you, is it the clock, your phone or something on the computer. Is it better to hide these things when working on creative projects? If you are a clock checker, set a timer for when you need to finish and work on another task then put the clock away. That way you are not getting stressed over the time and how long you have, but can focus completely until the timer goes. (and no cheating and taking a peek!)
- Have set for tasks that can distract you from creative work but are still necessary. Things like checking and replying to emails and posting to and engaging on social media. By creating set times to do these things, you don’t have to worry about it, as you know it will all be taken care of at that set time, and then removes the compulsive checking and seeing anything that may stress you out and take you away from creating.
- If nice smells help calm and centre you, you may find diffusing essential oils in your workspace help your mindset as you work.
- Have rest space within your work area. This could be a nice comfy chair/couch, bean bag or even pile of cushions. If you only have a small workspace or not a dedicated room for work, having a relaxing place in a nearby room where you can have moments to sit in calm and write or sketch can help with moments of conceptualizing and idea generation and even free experimenting and getting your thoughts out. Sometimes a hard desk and chair can feel too formal when you just need to let the thoughts and ideas flow.
- Surround yourself with things that inspire you. It could be artwork on the wall, objects that you find inspiring, or motivational quotes on the wall. You may even want to write up your why, why you do what you do and make it into a poster, to remind yourself why you do this and inspire you to keep at it.
- If you work in the evenings, light a candle when doing evening work. It is softer than your electrical light, making it more relaxing. This is not only good for working but will also better prepare the body for sleep after your work. If you are not working on a computer, but sure to have enough light though, so you are not straining your eyes when you work. When on my computer I turn the computer lighting down as low as I can, so it is not too bright.
HOW TO REDUCE STRESS FOR BETTER CREATIVE WORK
As I said, being in a calm state for working will allow your mind to focus on creating rather than dealing with all the problems you are facing. Getting into a calm and relaxed state to work, will set the tone for better creating and it will come naturally rather than feeling forced. Getting frustrated or feeling uninspired are often indicators you need to take a step back and first get into a better frame of mind to create. Here are some ideas to get there.
- Calm your breathing, and focus on your breathe for a few moments. Try this breathe site.
- Do something slow. While we think we are great multi-taskers, the mind can actually only focus on one thing at a time. Therefore we are wasting time by our minds having to shift between things, and starting over each time. Better to focus on one thing take your time and get fully immersed in it, then move on to another thing. Flitting between things can be a form of procrastination and a compulsive habit. It could be as simple as slowly drinking a cup of tea and just enjoying it. Spending a little time reading a book, sitting in the sunshine with your toes in the grass, or baking a cake. Just choose a simple task you enjoy and take your time to enjoy it and slow down.
- Meditation. This could be a guided recording, or simply sitting and breathing and calming those racing thoughts in your head.
- Getting into nature. Sunshine and fresh air are great for your mood. Even more beneficial if you go barefoot and walk on the grass (or sand if you live by the sea). Take some time away from technology and the man-made, and soak up natural goodness.
- Do some exercise. While it may sound like hard work, it will energise you and help you focus better and feel fueled and motived. If you are feeling angry or stressed, exercise can be a great way to burn it off and get your emotions out.
- Get your thoughts out. Start journalling or simple scribbling out thoughts and ideas. Even writing lists of all those ‘to-do’s swimming around your head, can release that space, and you know it is all there to come back to later.
- Work on pressure free creative projects. Something with no deadline, no client, no need to even complete it. Just to focus on the process and play creatively. You don’t even have to create a ‘thing’ but could just stitch, paint, draw, collage, knit or mould. It doesn’t have to become something, just simply use your hands and let go of expectation.
TIPS TO GETTING INTO A FLOW STATE WITH WORK
So once you are feeling calm and have a great space to work in, how can you get into and stay in a good flow state. Flow state happens when we are so deep in work that we forget about the physical world. Time doesn’t matter, what is going on around us doesn’t matter, our past and future is of little concern. We are just focused on the creation of our work.
We have all had these moments. You almost snap out of it after a while feeling like you just woke from a dream. What time is it now? While that full deep focus can be hard to get all the time, there are ways to get it more often or at least getting closer to it.
- Play sounds and music that calm the mind and help it focus. I remember in school a teacher saying listening to Mozart helps. You can also try the focus music on brain.fm
- Use the Pomodoro technique. This is where you set a timer and work for 25 minutes solid and totally focused (or longer depending on how you want to do it). Then take a short break, and do it again. This is helpful if you are easily distracted, or find yourself processing and taking trips to the fridge a lot. By setting a time, you know a break will come and you can just focus until it does.
- Push through the start. Often starting is the biggest struggle point. There is nothing harder than that blank piece of paper starring at you. Take the pressure off, and feel free to start messy, let whatever comes go, because often getting the duds out the way first, helps us get going and gets our mind thinking and pulling ideas together. It then starts to get easier and we get into a flow and we begin to produce good work. When you put the pressure on yourself to perform and create something amazing off the bat, it can end up becoming paralyzing and makes it harder to get into that flow state.
- Refuel your creativity. If you are feeling really uninspired and drained. First, refuel and re-inspire yourself. Creative fuel can really help you get into the flow as you just can’t wait to get into it and create. Try going to an art gallery, watching inspiring films or videos, reading a great book, seeing an exhibition or museum. Get among other creatives and go to events, meetups, markets and just have a coffee date with a local creative. Look for fresh sources of inspiration, step outside what you usually do and refuel.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF SO YOU CAN WORK BETTER
If you feel a mess, with 4 hours sleep a night, living off fast food, coffee, dry shampoo and yoga pants, it is going to affect your creative drive. While its fine to have lazy days, have treats and wear comfy clothes taking care of yourself is important if you want to feel energised and do your best work and be beaming with exciting ideas. It will also give you a confidence boost, helping you believe in your own work. No more ‘I suck, and my work sucks’. Self-care doesn’t need to be complex and fancy either. Try to eat well, exercise regularly, get the sleep you need, dress nicely, do your hair and face. Imagine you have to go work in an office, what would you do to take care of yourself before going. Just because you work at home, doesn’t mean you need to live in pyjamas. While you do have more freedom, it still helps to get ready properly and take care of yourself. I have heard some people even wear shoes, to get themselves in ‘work’ mode.
I hope these thoughts have helped and if you have any other ideas of things that have helped you, let me know in the comments. Happy creating.