How to Find Your Creative Environment

That's my desk when I was living in Buenos Aires in 2010.

It’s not always easy to get in to your creative zone.

You want to create something, whether it’s an epic blog post, an eBook, letter or a new business, but procrastination often gets in the way.

With the goal of making your creative process more effective and focused, over the next three weeks, one of my posts per week will be dedicated to finding you creative zone.

The three parts of this series are as follows:

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Part One: How to Find Your Personal Creative Environment

Your creative environment will be very personal to you. Only you can understand the best environment for you to do you most effective creative work.

It will take time for you to create this environment and refine it for your needs. It will probably constantly change and evolve, as will your creativity.

Once you can recreate your creative environment at will, you will be able to build your creativity at a moment’s notice.

Your creative environment needs to be built around your senses, and certainly that is a good framework to start with. For each sense, you need to think about what you can do to stimulate this in your own personal creative environment.

I will work through how to build this, using my own creative environment as an example. My environment is that of a writer, but yours will be specific to whatever it is that you are creating.

A Sensory Framework For Your Creative Environment

Sight
My writing is done looking at a screen. My desk looks out of a window, but my concentration is on the screen and my words. You might require a wider vista for creating. If I want to mix it up, I will work at a different table or head out somewhere else.

Sound
At the moment I am writing in Omm Writer and I use their native sounds as my background music. Sometimes if I want to write a long piece at speed I will put on some fast Spanish guitar music on to enable me to keep the pace up.

Touch
I either write on my keyboard or my iPad screen directly. I like to change it up to keep things different.

Smell
Some people like to burn a scented candle or incense to stimulate their creativity. I don’t do anything specific around this sense.

Taste
I like to have a big drink of Yerba Mate tea and some water, sometimes if the mood takes in the evening I will have a glass of wine (I tend to write a lot more then!). Whilst I don’t advocate caffeine or alcohol as a crux for creativity, sometimes it is good to have a bit of stimulation.

The key to the above sensory stimulus framework is that if I put the environment together; the drink, sounds and location; I know that it is time to create. This enables me to create an environment to work in at a moment’s notice.

How to Find Your Creative Environment

Use the above sensory triggers to work out how you like to work.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get you started:

  • What location do I do my best creation in? Is it a particular room or place in my house, or somewhere outside of that?
  • What kind of things do I like to have around me when I am creating?
  • Do I prefer silence or music to help me create? What type of music or silence do I like?
  • Do I need to interact with or be around people to create? If so, who and when?
  • What times of the day do I work the most effectively?
  • Are there any easily repeatable things I can do to stimulate my creativity? This could be a particular brand of coffee or lighting some incense.
  • How long can I stay in my creative environment for without my creativity being stifled?

What you have to do is try out different things and see what works for you.

Some people like to work to loud music, others, like me, need music without lyrics so they are not distracted. Some people do their best creative work in noisy coffee shop, while others in a peaceful garden.

Your creative zone will no doubt evolve with you over time.

The key thing that I want you to take away from this article is this:
If you understand your own creative environment, that you can put together when you need it, then you can trigger your best creative work more easily.

I mention triggers because that is the subject of next week’s article about finding your creative zone.

Make sure that you are subscribed so that you get each article in this series as soon as it is published, and all my other updates including insider stuff too.

Thanks for reading.

Please let me know in the comments how you create your creative environment. Do you have any extra tips?

I'm writing a book: It's called "The Wordpress Business Kit" and it's about starting a Wordpress Consulting business on the side. If that sounds like something of interest to you, please check it out here.

9 Responses to How to Find Your Creative Environment

  1. Brian August 17, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    Hey Chris,

    Sorry but I couldn’t get past the picture of your desk in Buenos Aires. How did you ever leave? But seriously, I like your advice. It isn’t always easy to get yourself into the right frame of mind for creation. I find that actually writing (with pencils on a legal pad) helps me get my juices flowing.

    • Chris August 18, 2011 at 10:47 am #

      Hi Brian,

      Yeah Buenos Aires was awesome. It wasn’t that desk that made me not want to leave – it was the steaks and wine!

      I like writing offline too, but I am so out of practice I get a sore arm pretty quick.

      Thanks as always for your comment and support.

      Cheers,

      Chris

  2. peterbutler August 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    My situation is a little different, because I’m a programmer, but I’ve found to really get in the zone, I need borderline sensory deprivation. Music helps, but only in the sense that it drowns out ambient noise. I’m the same way about getting distracted by music – but I’ve found that I can get around that by finding a song I like, or a set of a few songs, and setting it on repeat for the entire day.

    Other than that, a darkened room, no twitter, ichat, phone, etc, and I can get down to business.

  3. cjstott August 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    @peterbutler Hi Peter, thanks for sharing. Try some must without words…or stick Pandora/Last.fm on a classical guitar station or something.

    Thanks for stopping by! You create awesome stuff – codegarage has got my backup back!

  4. jaemin.yi August 19, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Loving that picture. That spot in Buenos Aires looks like the PERFECT place to get in the zone and crank out some creative goodness.

    As for me, I find that I usually need complete silence (I get distracted real easily). But when there’s noise or people around me, lately I’ve been listening to this Trance radio station that I’ve actually been able to…well…get lost in a trance to! I heard about it from Markus: http://livingonimpulse.com/best-music-to-work-to

    And I’ve mainly been working from home now but it’s getting to be a little TOO quiet and unstimulating of an environment. I’ve been looking for some other places to check out. Maybe a co-working space, but they’re a little expensive. Have you had any experience with those?

  5. cjstott August 19, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    @jaemin.yi Hello!

    Thanks for sharing your creative environment. I haven’t used a co-working space. I generally prefer to work alone. I have heard about an interesting tech and artist meet up area in our local city that I might check out though.

    Maybe it’s worth trying out to see if it is worth the cost?

  6. peterbutler August 19, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    @jaemin.yi I’ve never tried a coworking arrangement, but I have to say I’m intrigued by the idea. I don’t really expect that it would be the best for actually cranking out lots of productive work, but sometimes working around other people (especially people who at least have an idea of what you’re up to) can be really helpful – because you’ve got someone around to bounce ideas off of.

    Maybe that’s not how most coworking arrangements end up, I don’t know – but I sometimes find myself jealous of people who work in a place where they have face to face contact with other humans, who can talk and help work through problems.

  7. cjstott August 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    @peterbutler@jaemin.yi I think it would be great occasionally. It would be good to have a mix of people creating the same things as you, as well as other stuff to get a fresh perspective.

    It must be quite easy to find such a setup through the web.

  8. jaemin.yi August 19, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    @cjstott@peterbutler I’m about to do a few days trial at CoLoft in Santa Monica next week. My friend SWEARS by them. And everyone I talk to says it’s all about the people there.My guess is that it won’t be AS productive, but maybe the environment is so fun, you’ll want to be there as often as possible and put in more work hours. Also, building relationships is the best way to new opportunities. My friend actually formed a startup with someone he met at Coloft. Probably wouldn’t have happened if he was working from his home like I am now lol.

    Will keep you guys updated.

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