Adorn Your Space

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

Chuck Close may be able to turn his back on any room and get to work, but shutting out the world might not work for you—or not work all the time. You may not have a Parisian atelier with floor-to-ceiling windows (or need one) but there are ways to make the space you do have more inspiring and conducive to creative work.

In his biography of Leonardo da Vinci, Walter Isaacson quotes da Vinci describing an artist at work: “The painter sits in front of his work at perfect ease. He is well dressed and wields a very light brush dipped in delicate color. He adorns himself with the clothes he fancies; his home is clean and filled with delightful pictures, and he is often accompanied by music or by the reading of various beautiful works.” (In psychology, enclothed cognition covers the influence of clothes on the mind of the person wearing it.)

You can also experiment with the temperature, and be mindful of how that influences your thought process. Singer-songwriter Ester Dean says, “I always have an electric heater behind my feet, but I like to be comfortable so that I can be vulnerable.”

Because this is a book about creative doing—which means creativity in the physical world—test some things out that play with your senses, to see what affects your creative mind. Light a candle or apply some essential oils. Create a playlist of songs that pump you up, and then try music that calms you down. If your work is mostly done on the go and on the screen, you can also take some time to make your virtual environment—screen brightness, wallpapers, and software—more conducive to creative work. Whatever or wherever it is, make your environment a place you want to spend time every day.

Draft, Demo, and Sketch

No creative work emerges finished. Preliminary work is rough, and often bears little resemblance to the polished, completed product released to the public.

Mozart would often start a piece, set it aside, and then pick it back up months or years later. Musicologist Ulrich Konrad called these beginnings “departure points … a delineation of intellectual places to which Mozart could return as necessary.” Each field has different names to describe preliminary creative work. In writing, a preliminary work is called a “draft.” In recording arts and software, preliminary work is called a “demo” and often used to demonstrate the artist’s or group’s capabilities and the work’s possibilities. In visual art, preliminary work is called a “sketch,” and used to assist in making the final work.

Preliminary work is not optional, and every version of preliminary work is crucial for improving the work we’re making. This stage is far too early to demand perfection; it’s best to keep expectations low, to refrain from self-criticism, and to support psychological safety (the feeling that it’s okay to make mistakes) to allow every single detail of the idea to flow out.

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