A couple days ago, I received a “memory” notification on Facebook about a painting I’d completed around 7 years ago.
At that point, I was in college, oil painting was still completely foreign to me, and I was constantly surrounded by inspiration, other artists, and a workspace dedicated exclusively to painting. F U L L I M M E R S I O N. With these circumstances, all conducive to being productive, it was easy to start painting, get lost in it, and realize I’d been working for 3 days without sleeping, with minimal eating, basic hygiene, and too much caffeine (Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme). In Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s “Flow,” he notes that state of mind where someone can get into “the zone” or “flow” in a given activity (If you haven’t read it, it’s worth checking out). When you’ve got a workspace designed to place you in this state of “flow,” it’s simple enough to be produce work. Then I graduated and moved into a fairly small apartment, removed from the workspace I’d grown so familiar.
This brought up an issue I hadn’t considered upon graduating from college: how do you tap into that “zone” or “flow” in a new environment? How can you develop your workspace, whether it be for art, crafting, writing, or any other activity, to be conducive to production? What kind of routines do you have to begin creating? For me, it’s imperative that in my apartment, without a separate studio space, that I have SOME kind of space dedicated to my work in my apartment. In that space, I need it to be free from my living areas. When I go to that space, something in my brain clicks and says, “Hey, you’re here to work, so lets do that.” Maybe you don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to your work area, then what do you do? I read one of those buzzfeed style “Routines of 20 Famous Writers” articles a few years ago, and from Hemingway to Charles Dickens, they all had specific routines for how they’d approach their day to best create work. One that stuck out to me was how many writers would go on walks before working, but the important part was developing a routine. If you want to trick your brain into thinking you’re leaving your small studio apartment to go to your dedicated studio space (That you don’t technically have), why not do something like take a walk? Leave your “living” space, walk around a couple blocks, and come back, intentions set to creating. Again, the most important part is that whatever you decide to do, and however much space you’re given, you need a routine that will allow you to have focus, free from distraction.
Here’s what I’ve found for myself. When I work, I work best at night. I’ve got a corner of my living room with my desk, easel, bookshelves, etc. to keep myself inspired, while being separated from the rest of the living area. I’ve got a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones that work wonders for keeping outside sound out (also a great neutral studio monitor headphone for you audiophile folks out there). I also have to have socks. I can’t work without socks.
So, what kinds of routines do you all have to begin working? How do you tap into that “flow” to get lost in your art or writing? Tell us about it!