By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Contributor
Some people — including my son’s and daughter’s teachers when they were younger — don’t believe it but, yes, in my home you can write on the walls. More than 20 years ago my husband installed three dry-erase panels, spanning the space from the ceiling to the floor. They are actually white tile boards purchased at our local Home Depot. I wanted a creative space for us to be able to write out ideas. I did not want to be confined to the pages of a notebook.
I like to think of my home as an art studio; there’s a project underway in almost every room – quilt squares, shrine boxes, drafts of poems. It’s important to surround ourselves with what inspires us and to create an environment that gives us energy and space to think, plan and create.
Place as Part of Creativity
So what does your creative space look like? Designing an enriching environment is one of 10 creative strategies Jordan Ayan lists in his book, Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas. In my own creativity equation [B (P⁵) = Aha], Place — the environment in which you create — is one of the five Ps.
I find I need different spaces for different phases of my creative spirit. Sometimes I need the quiet of my back patio; other times I prefer the cornucopia of art supplies in my evolving work studio. Occasionally, I need to step outside of my home and hike outdoors.
The Impact of Our Surroundings
The field of study devoted to environmental psychology has found that our surroundings impact us in a variety of ways, from how we think to how we feel. Therapist Mark Tyrrell, who writes for the website uncommon knowledge, notes, “Environmental triggers seed behavior and response in people to a much greater extent than we realize.”
Even Pope Francis agrees. In his encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” he devotes a section on the “Ecology of Daily Life” in which he addresses the “setting in which people live their lives.” He continues, “These settings influence the way we think, feel and act.”
“In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighborhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity,” Pope Francis adds. “…when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.”
Ways to Create Your Own Eureka! Room
As you consider what works best for your Eureka! room, think about light, color, art, music, aromas, touch. Identify features that will stimulate the senses. In my own home, instead of a china cabinet in the dining room, we have book cases. And while I am trying to designate one room as a work studio, it is not uncommon to find stray paint brushes or fabric in different corners of my home. I find these objects fuel my creative energy.
Fostering Workplace Creativity
At work we have a red couch, dry-erase boards, dim lighting (with plenty of lamps to add more light if needed). It is affirming to find that the journal Environmental Psychology had a study addressing how different lighting affects us. According to the study, dim lights are more helpful: “Dim illumination and priming darkness improve creative performance.”
Several companies make it a priority to design creative work spaces for their employees. Google, for example, built in flexibility by placing everything on wheels and the company’s Zurich offices have gondolas available as work and meeting spaces.
The Power of Creative Space
Colin Ellard, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has been researching how the environment affects us. In his book, Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday, he “explores how our homes, workplaces, cities, and nature — places we escape to and can’t escape from — have influenced us throughout history, and how our brains and bodies respond to different types of real virtual space.”
“Our surroundings can powerfully affect our thoughts, emotions, and physical responses,” he said.
In closing, it’s worth noting the words of Winston Churchill. Speaking in the House of Commons in 1944, the noted statesman said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” So glance around. Is your space truly the space of your making? Is it a place that gives you joy? How does it affect you or shape you? Remember — it’s your space; you get to shape it according to your will.