Design Your Space to be Creative and Productive

We’ve all seen the stock photos of a perfectly tousled artist studio with just the right amount of weathered brick exposed (how inspiring!). Or of a meticulously laid out desk clad with a razor thin Mac and the trendiest sketchpad on the market (how clean!). But I have a hard time believing I’m the only writer out there whose desk looks nothing like either of these.

My home office (AKA my bedroom) is what I like to think of as a beautiful marriage of messy and organized, inspiring and practical. My desk is fit with shelves and drawers for my many folders, highlighters, and a variety of sticky note styles.

And just above, the wall is home to whimsical prints telling me to “Be brave”, notecards with my quotes from my favorite story (Peter Pan), and a printout of four intricate feathers that were meant to be colored in like one of those adult coloring books but they looked so pretty and I was afraid I’d ruin them so I just hung them up in black and white–that’s about as “me” as it gets.

The space is utilitarian but also full of my personality.

Yes, I could work at my kitchen table or on my living room couch. But I choose to write at a desk in my bedroom because it brings me both functionality and creativity.

I can sit up straight in my chair and have space for my laptop, notepad, and my many other organizational toys (yes, for me, a pencil holder is a toy) without burying myself under office supplies.

But I also get to enjoy that space without feeling like I’m in a cubicle. Right next to my desk, I have an eclectic (some would say excessive) assortment of candles, knick knacks from around the world, and a wooden canister holding a set of colored pencils (one day I’ll color in those feathers). All this, atop a packed bookcase up against a window that brings in an enviable amount of natural light all day! Every piece says a little something about who I am and inspires me to tell my story my way.

The point is that I learned how I work best and designed my workspace around my own habits and needs. It perfectly combines what I need to be productive and what I need to be creative. And I use the first person here very intentionally–what works for me does not have to be what works for you.

Maybe bohemian isn’t your style and the thought of lit candles in your home stresses you out. That’s OK! You can give your space a more modern look with clean lines and minimalist décor.

Or maybe your brain thrives off clutter–consider a long workbench where everything can lay flat on one surface.

Do you LOVE the library? Go to the library to work! It’s that simple! If you know you work best when you’re surrounded by books and silence, then that’s the environment where you should be working as much as humanly possible!

Bring in more color (or take the color away)! Whatever it takes to get your creative juices flowing without sacrificing workability. Yes, workability–a word that may or may not already exist but is defined as such: the ability for you to actually do work in a space. Not just a clean space. Not just a space that looks and feels a lot like an office. But a space where you, personally, can and will, on a regular basis, sit down (or stand up!) and get s*** done.

Workability | The Dusty Quill

Because you can have the most Insta-ready artist loft in San Francisco, but if you don’t have enough light to see your work, it ain’t workable. So don’t chase after the stock photos you see online.

Write down all the factors you need for a workable environment. Then write down some things (artwork, trinkets, furniture, colors) that make you feel creative.

If your workspace doesn’t incorporate at least some (preferably most) of what’s on both lists, it’s not workable. But you can change that! You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) sacrifice form or function when it comes to a creative work space. Instead, design it to maximize your potential for both creativity and productivity.

And let me know how it goes! Comment below with what makes you feel most creative and productive!

And stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll help you DIY your workable space so you can get work done faster and cheaper!


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