editione1.0.2Updated 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.
Artist Chuck Close describes the tendency for artists to spend years finding, designing, and outfitting the perfect space to work. Once the space is done, though, they end up selling it and building another. Close says in Inside the Painter’s Studio, “It seems more often than not a way to keep from having to work. But I could paint anywhere. I made big paintings in the tiniest bedrooms, garages, you name it. You know, once I have my back to the room, I could be anywhere. I could care less.”
Even before we start our creative work, it’s easy to find reasons to stop—it’s common to say, “I can’t create because I don’t have professional tools or the right space.” We spend hours—maybe even days—getting around obstacles that we set up for ourselves. Even for something like writing, which can involve as little as a single tool, you can stop yourself from actually working by cycling through an endless series of questions: what word processing software or notebook should I use? Where should I publish my work? If I’m deciding to set up my own blog, which software should I use? Should I be building my audience first instead of writing?
These questions are all well and good. They also have absolutely nothing to do with writing. Just put the pen on a page (or even a scrap piece of paper), and start writing.
In reality, we don’t need anything except our brains and bodies to practice our creative work. The goal is to put this reality into practice with the fewest tools possible, in any environment.
⬌ Or flip this prompt: Find the Simplest Element of Your Craft
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.”