Podcast: Making Mental + Physical Space to Create
You’re listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast.
I’m your host, Jefferey Spivey.
Let’s be weird, snobby, and intellectual together.
This week, I want to talk about space.
That was a clip from an April CBS Sunday Morning piece about clutter. We all have a lot of stuff, whether you’re crammed into a New York studio apartment or a two-story house in Idaho, you probably have more things at your disposal than you need. We have this drive to fill spaces with stuff. I’m doing it as we speak.
I’ve been a homeowner for a little over a month now, and my husband and I are in the process of filling our space with stuff. Furniture for the reading room, paintings for the guest bedroom, patio furniture and a grill for the backyard.
I find it interesting that we lived in New York for so long, in tiny shoebox apartments, with the bare minimum, and we never felt like anything was missing. In fact, it always felt like there was too much. And now, with about 1300 extra square feet, it seems like an impossible task to make this space feel full.
One area of the house that I’m focused on is my office. Before, my office was literally a desk, and a broken rolling chair, that sat between a bookcase and the refrigerator. It wasn’t exactly spacious, or stimulating. But in the house, we’ve designated an entire spare bedroom as a home office, and it’s about a third of the size of our previous apartment. It trumps my little desk nook by a long shot.
Now that I have an actual space to create in, I have the interest and energy to direct towards decorating it, making it feel like home, like a space I can make stuff in. It seems, the more space I gained, the easier it was for me to create—decoration plans and choices, actual creative stuff like essays, this podcast, fun social media posts. For some part of this year, I was a bit unmotivated, uninspired. Perhaps what I needed wasn’t a new idea or an innovative way to approach my work; I just needed a bigger office.
Yeah, you heard that right. That was a clip from the Here Be Barr YouTube channel. The host, Jon Barr, lives in a 350 sq. ft. 2-bedroom apartment. That’s insane. His YouTube channel is filled with lots of travel videos and fun goings-on in New York. I assume it’s because there isn’t much to do in an apartment that small. To make stuff, you have to get out.
We need physical space to create things. The beauty of being a creative person is the ability to unlock endless possibilities. A story can take any number of twists and turns, a video can be chopped into any sort of structure. There are no limits to the things we can achieve, but to feel limitless, we have to unlock those constraints.
I realize this may conflict some information I shared on last week’s podcast—I quoted an Inc. article that suggested confining yourself in a box to inspire creativity. But that’s a momentary activity, not a way to live 24/7.
The more we open up the space around us, the less we worry about the borders locking us in. We can start seeing beyond our desk nook, or studio apartment, or tiny little coffeehouse, and start embracing possibility.
Now, I know that not everyone can just make their home office bigger. But you can do things to make your space feel more inviting. Open it up a bit.
An article from Brit + Co. has some cool advice:
1. Don’t make your desk too neat. Some studies show that a bit of disorder actually aids your creativity.
2. Make it cozy. This is where you’re going to write your New York Timesbestseller or edit that viral video. You want to feel comfortable and inspired in the space.
3. Add color. White and beige are cool and all, but how about a pop color on one of the walls? Or a piece of artwork?
4. Add some inspo. Maybe it’s a moodboard or vision board with everything you’re working on. Use this space to remind you of your purpose every day when you show up for work.
5. Make a place to clear your head. I added a lamp to the corner of my office, and I’m currently searching for an affordable chaise lounge. I want a little reading nook to relax in and clear my head when I need it.
That’s because making space isn’t just about physical stuff. We need to make mental space as well.
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Monday through Friday, you can read the Bourgeois Brief, a summary of headlines and news about creators of color.
Each week, I publish one new essay or think piece; always personal, but always through a universal lens.
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To find out more, visit www.uptownbourgeois.com.
So, that’s one way to clear your mind. You can visit the Infinite Waters YouTube channel for more meditation inspiration. If you’ve never meditated before, this might seem foreign to you. All this weird breathing, slowing down your thoughts, speaking positively to yourself. But we often take for granted the importance of having a clear mind.
I’ll share an example.
I’m a creative, and creatives always want to work on a million projects at once. I’ll give you a sampling of what’s on my creative wish list at the moment:
-I want to finish composing and recording a song I started at the top of the year.
-I’m reworking my novel query letter and compiling a list of 100 agents to pitch.
-I’m editing a pilot script to enter in competitions.
-I’m considering compiling a new personal essay collection to self-publish.
-I’m searching for residencies and grants.
-I’m pulling together footage for a YouTube series about my move to Arkansas.
And those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head.
As you can imagine, with a full work schedule, and all my Uptown Bourgeois content, that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to juggle 6 creative side projects simultaneously. All these things can be done, but not at once.
This week, I force ranked all my projects and picked the one that was most urgent—shopping my novel. I decided that all my free time would be devoted to that project, and everything else would have to wait until it was done. Or until I reached a point where I could let that project rest and move on to something else.
I felt so much relief this week. I had a clear vision; I didn’t feel like I was being pulled in 20 different directions. And consequently, I was able to generate new ideas, work on revisions, and view this whole novel process from a new, and more positive, perspective. I gave myself the mental space to work on ONE project, and even before I’ve achieved any measure of success with that project, I already see and feel progress.
An article from Spoon University states that a clear headspace can help keep you calm, sane, and happy—all things you need to be to make stuff. How can you develop an idea if you’re always thinking about the next thing? Here’s the easy answer: you can’t.
When you start making space, in your office or apartment or house, to do your work, don’t forget about your head. You might need to move some furniture around up there as well.
New on the blog this week, read the companion piece to this episode, titled, “Making Space”.
Also, a quick note: The podcast will be taking a one-week break, so I can make space to enjoy some R&R in Eureka Springs with my husband. I’ll be back with a new episode June 22.
Thanks so much for listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Check back for new episodes every week, and subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play, Stitcher, Overcast, PocketCast, or iHeartRadio, or whatever you use to listen to podcasts, so you never miss out. If you love it, share it with your friends. If not, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you’d like me to talk about. Until next week…
The Uptown Bourgeois podcast is written, produced, and edited by Jefferey Spivey, and is an official property of Uptown Bourgeois, LLC. All original music is provided courtesy of RMVD.