The Creative's Desk
Tips on making a sacred space for your artistic work
With the recent turbulence felt all over the world, nothing feels more important than sacred space. Whether it's your yoga mat, your sofa or a state of mind - finding somewhere to block out the noise has become a life raft for many of us in this time. As a creative, it's imperative to find a home for your work. It might be in the local coffee shop, in your bed or, if you are lucky enough, your spare room. Having moved I am now delighted to have a small space to call "the writing desk". Alot of thought and consideration has gone into this little slice of creative heaven. Today I share some of the top tips I have gained personally, and from other artists, on how to create a place that helps you create great work.
The temptation of procrastination is a real thing. We all know it. As an artist, it's so tempting to do anything BUT art. I will do anything but write. I will literally clean my house top to bottom some days. But there's a sneakier kind of procrastination that I find comes in the form of "I can't possibly do X until I have Y". Materialism can get you that way...
As Stephen King puts it so often in his wonderful memoir "On Writing" - you can have all the excuses in the world, but at the end of the day you just have to do the damn thing.
BUT there is something else I'd like to highlight here, that can in fact serve as a useful tool.
You can, in fact, court creativity.
Some days it's hard, really hard, to write or paint or practice. Sometimes it's like drawing blood from a stone. It's just not coming. Instead of thrashing ourselves and thrashing the universe, there's something else we can do.
Writer Julia Cameron likes to court creativity. In the middle of a big project that's running dry? Instead of teeth grinding, hair pulling and internal panic - imagine this instead. You shut your laptop, and take a breath. You put on a nice outfit, maybe some lipstick. You walk into the crisp autumn day outside. You take yourself to the library. Perhaps pick up your favourite cosy hot drink on the way. Enjoy the steam against your lips as your eye's revel at the possibilities. You find it - the book you heard about a while ago at that dinner, you choose it, take it home and fill yourself with its essence. Enjoying page after page, feeling your internal gears loosen and unwind.
This is what Julia Cameron call's the artist's date. A way to croon and cajole your creativity back from the corner. Out into the light. To give yourself the break you probably need and deserve. It doesn't have to be flashy or expensive or educational. It can be anything that makes you feel FULL. A gallery visit. A new paintbrush. A walk with a trusted friend or mentor. An evening with a glass of wine and that album that inspired you in the first place. For me? It's almost always the library option. A new book and some fresh air always seems to set me straight and fill me up, until I'm brimming and ready to go again.
I like to bring this concept into my creative space. Whether you have a dedicated room, a dedicated desk or you work in your bed, think about how to create a sense of magic and wonder. I like a lamp, soft low light. I like an old fashioned pen pot. I like trinkets, tokens, pebbles from beach walks and crystals from close friends. I like books, I like the works of other great artists around me, enveloping me.
What do you like? What makes you feel like anything is possible?
Enjoy Your Art - Creativity Will Hear You And Draw Close
That is one of my favourite quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert's stunning book, Big Magic. These little snippets have become mini mantras for creative practice. Reminders that are essential to breaking down the barriers of self-doubt, self-criticism and perfectionism. The 3 biggest blocks to most people's creative output, if we look honestly at ourselves. As someone who tends to fall into the habit of grinding away at things in the pursuit of perfectionism or validation, it's good to remind myself that the purpose of this is joy. Love. Fulfilment. That "my art doesn't have to be for anyone else, or important. It just has to be for me".
That's where the corkboard comes in. I think a corkboard serves as an incredibly useful vessel for a creative. So often we can get down the rabbit hole of a project, be so deep in the darkness of it's belly that we forget where we are. What turn to take. Why we started in the first place. In those moments I can look up, see encouragement and get right back. I also have quotes, poems, pictures - anything relevant to the projects I am working on. To keep me tethered, and most importantly excited about what I'm working on. Remember that first flicker of an idea? The honeymoon phase? 50,000 words in, 6 months down the line or 4 hours of practice later - it gets handy to have that feeling on speed dial. Because guess what? Creativity will hear you and draw close!
Open A Bank
Rejection is part and parcel of an artists life. It sucks. But there's a way to fight it.
The bank is a list of any praise, recognition or personal pride you have ever had about your work. Everything. And I mean everything. I was recently shortlisted for playwright's scheme - that's on the list. Someone once said I remind them of Phoebe Waller-Bridge - and you bet that's on the list too.
We have a negative brain bias. That's just a fact. We are 50% more likely to think negatively about ourselves or a situation than we are to react with positivity. So when we face rejection often it can be hard to ever remember any of the kind or encouraging things that we most certainly all have. So get that bank somewhere you can see it often. Mine is in the back of my diary. But it could be on your phone, or by all means, get it on that corkboard!
Invest Proudly In Your Art
As a younger artist, I would never feel proud of myself. I haven't achieved X or Y - therefore I do not deserve this, that or the other.
This is nonsense.
I can tell you and my past self, this attitude does not foster a good relationship with your work. Instead, you will be miserable, forever waiting for someone else's permission to begin and subsequently burn out.
I'll say it for you. You are worthy. You are more worthy than you can ever think or imagine. By virtue of your existence, you are worthy.
And you should invest in yourself. If you need a smart shirt for an audition - you should get it. If you think that film will really influence your eye - see it. If you write consistently - you should get a desk you love. I did it. I decided I deserve to work in a sacred space I love. One that makes me feel magical and capable of anything.
I'm not saying you have to spend money. Hey, all the above is tax-deductible. And the desk is second hand.
What I'm saying is, the belief that you are not worthy of these things, things that feed and sustain your work, is wrong. No matter who you are or what you make, you are wonderful. Your bravery and commitment make you a success. You do not have to have won an Olivier or danced for the National Ballet to deserve investing in what sets your soul on fire. Okay?
I'll leave you with a little something I have always carried with me. On scraps of paper, in a frame and now in pride of place on my corkboard. It's some beautiful words from Theodore Roosevelt, that I think everyone should have in their sacred space - creative or otherwise.
Until next time!
Author: Olivia Foan