7 Principles for Setting up a Creative Space

Updated on  
7 Principles for Setting up a Creative Space

 

Creating the space for art is the first step to creating art!

Whether you make art for a living or you want to play around with your artistic side as a hobby, art likes certain conditions in order to be coaxed out from its cave. 

In whatever iteration, be it writing, photography, music, sculpture or painting, the space any kind of creativity requires remains the same. This is because it is less of a physical space (although that comes into play) and more of a mindspace that art thrives in. 

Consider these principles when creating a space (in your mind, heart or home) so that your art can flow into being. The world wants to see, hear, read and feel your art so start the process by creating a beautiful space for it to flow into.

The principles are written in somewhat of a hierarchical order but they all relate very closely and even overlap partially. I’ve written about them all from my own personal struggles & celebrations with creating. 

Come back to this when you feel stuck and you can always reach out to me on social media at @brvcreative.

 

1. Follow your Bliss

This is the very first principle because it is the most important & it defines other steps along the path of creation. 

Your Bliss is that thing that shines brightest to you. It’s a sense of excitement toward one option and perhaps boredom or disdain toward another. There isn’t anyone who can tell you what your Bliss might be, this is only for you to feel your way towards. 

All the other points below relate back to this first point. In realising one you may be reminded of how it’s really just another shade of this point.
Learning the other steps will strengthen your grasp on this concept of following your Bliss, which is a guiding principle through all of your life. 

This quote from Joseph Campbell who wrote extensively on Mythology and following your Bliss, explains exactly what it means:

“When you follow your bliss, and by bliss I mean the deep sense of being in it, and doing what the push is out of your own existence—it may not be fun, but it’s your bliss and there’s bliss behind pain too.

You follow that and doors will open where there were no doors before, where you would not have thought there’d be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anybody else. And so I think the best thing I can say is to follow your bliss. If your bliss is just your fun and your excitement, you’re on the wrong track. I mean, you need instruction. Know where your bliss is. And that involves coming down to a deep place in yourself.” 

— Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey (1990)

 

I take that to mean that your Bliss is that *thing* you will pursue despite the difficulties and adversities. It is that thing you will change for. It is the thing that you will remove a chink in your egoic armour for. The term 'Bliss' is distinct from the common interpretation of the concept of 'hedonism'. Just chasing the highs of emotion and sensation. Hedonism is a cheap version. It’s not authentic because it doesn’t have the shade of darkness to it. Bliss will lead you through darkness. This is what my ‘Spirit Guide’ piece represents.


 



In every step along the path of creation, let Bliss be your guiding light. 

Your Bliss could be imagined as a light shining ahead of you - it will illuminate your next step. Don’t be afraid of where the step leads. As there lays darkness beyond the first initial step, your mind might create an idea of what may lay hidden in that darkness (and that's where we are told monsters will hide). 

As you go along with this principle, you will get better at recognising your bliss. Your bliss may lead you down unexpected paths but that feeling or sensation will remain the same, even through fear. When you are choosing a subject to write on or paint, this principle will guide you to it and it will make a lot of decisions for you along the way also. 




2. Hold onto a vision but let go of the result

Sound illogical? It is somewhat paradoxical but let me explain. 

Some artists are struck with a vision of the final result. 

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free” - 

Michelangelo

 

This would be described as a moment of inspiration for Michelangelo, perhaps a divine download or heavenly message. 

Some artists even report on dreaming of their artwork. It isn't so much in your control what, when or where inspiration will strike, but there are things that will increase your rate of these ideas, including setting up a physical space & applying rules & parameters (more on that below). 

Other times inspiration requires a little effort on our behalf. 

Perhaps you stare at a blank page for a hundred days and still the story won’t emerge. It isn’t until you physically put pen to paper on the 101st day, that a story starts to take shape. Perhaps without awareness, you've created your own idea of an end result by placing the weight of a particular expectation on yourself, cutting you off from inspiration. Regardless, it happens to be sometimes that we must show up in a dedicated manner before inspiration shines down upon us. 

 

Inspired or not, you must let go of the final result, at least intermittently, in order to follow your Bliss and create your art. 

The process to create is best followed one step at a time. Some steps might be larger than others, the path is definitely not even or exact.

Holding on too strongly to the end result or getting too ahead of yourself means that you may not allow your Bliss to surprise you with a new technique or a happy accident that was always meant to be a part of the end result. By being too rigid in holding onto your ideas, you would be missing out on the fun of the journey and the wonderful mystery. 

Gripping to an end result can be a form of your mind trying to take control. It can be one of those ways we hide from ourselves in plain sight. Letting go of the end result means that you might wander into chaos & mystery and I say let your Bliss take you there. 

 

Mysteries, Yes

– Mary Oliver 

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

 

 

Whatever stage of inspiration you are at, there is a lesson to be found for you.

If you are in the camp of knowing the end result, perhaps your lesson might be to allow a little chaos to creep into your process. This would extend the boundaries of possibility for your creation and perhaps introduce you to new ideas and techniques.

If you’re on the side of “I have no idea what to make”, perhaps inspiration is just waiting for you to apply a little dedication and faith. The creative journey seems from the outside to be so full of fun and joy - which it is - but it also contains a lot of lessons that can test us. You will learn to love this. 

Write down your vision if you have one and then forget it. This is illustrated in the Hero’s Journey by the Refusal of the Call. It is a necessary part of the process. The ‘Call’ is the divinely inspired vision of your destiny, the task you must complete, the princess you must rescue, the idea that strikes you down in awe. We cannot sustain that level of inspiration else we lose sight of the steps just ahead of us. That vision shines too brightly and blinds us toward our natural next move. 

Let the vision go temporarily. It holds too much weight to hold all the time which will inhibit the next principle… 


3. Get into a state of play

Watch how children play and you’ll understand many life lessons, but especially about how to create. 

There are rules to their games but no one is the ruler. While they are playing you can clearly see that they enter into such a joyous and content frame of mind. A child will play  her way to creating the most magical world for herself - effortlessly! 

If you have ever experienced any kind of flow state, whether through exercise like yoga or during a repetitive task, you’ll recognise how your mind enters into a meditative state. The thinking part of your brain is allowed to shut off temporarily. When you allow yourself to get into this state while you create your art, you can access your Bliss more readily and naturally. It is natural for us to follow our Bliss as children demonstrate so obviously.

To take inspiration from children would do your art immense good. 

 

Setting up your environment to enter into a state of play as an adult is not difficult but it requires some conditions. 

 

  1. Safety - no amount of danger, perceived or real, will allow for a playful state.
  2. Time - any restrictions on time will inhibit this state (has a child ever kept track of the time while they’re playing? I think not)
  3. Permission - Give yourself the permission to go wild with any idea that springs to mind. If it seems fun, go for it. 
  4. No expectations - we go with the flow here. 




4. Being Nice To Yourself

This is an absolutely fundamental piece of the process. To refer back to the previous segment on entering into a state of play - you cannot berate a child if you think they are playing wrong. It would completely interrupt their flow and it’s pointless. Saying nasty things or placing expectations on yourself when you are wanting to create will shut down any of that creative potential in you. 

You might be really quite ok and nice with yourself in the creation process but if you are mean to yourself in other realms (say, in front of a mirror or during other tasks) that will leak into this realm. 

What Would Mum Do? 

Whatever your relationship to your own mother is, just imagine the ideal of what a Mother would be in this situation (or you could also use the example of a good friend or teacher).

While her child is busy creating, a mother is there to gently encourage and look after the needs that she anticipates. She might provide a healthy meal and make sure they have enough water. She would monitor how much time the child has been staring at a screen. She would step back and allow the child to play in her own space and she would step in and kindly offer suggestions when she senses a conflict.

A Mother shows kindness & love to her child by anticipating & providing physical & emotional needs.

Imagine if you were that for yourself. If you were frustrated, your inner voice could suggest a healthy activity like walking to calm your mind. If you could see yourself becoming disheartened in the process (completely normal) you could offer yourself some kind words by offering yourself a journal to write in, or suggest that you go see and talk with a friend. 

There is no longevity to the tortured artist. Let yourself off the hook.

While you’re in the middle of a piece of work, your vision can narrow. The piece becomes the most important thing in your life and nothing else has ever mattered so much as this (another reason to Let Go Of Your Vision). That part of you who can see the bigger picture is there to step into when you need to.

As important as this art piece seems to you, it actually doesn’t really matter in the great scheme of things. What matters most is that you have followed your Bliss through the process. 



5. Creating A Physical Space

It’s a sacred thing that we are doing by creating art which calls for a sacred space for it to be made in. 

Personal preference will come into play here so again, follow your Bliss. 

A sacred space in terms of a physical structure is generally clear of clutter, mostly empty but for those items most necessary or conducive to the act. It has clean air and enough light. You may find that you work best outside in full sunlight. It is a place that you enter into and immediately feel the energy of creation. It puts you in the mood to create. 

I have multiple spaces that I create in. My office is one space - it’s also my yoga room. Outside on my veranda is another so I can stare into my garden when I’m pondering. I’m can’t imagine that I’d be a coffee shop creator, although I haven’t really tried it but like… people. No thanks. 

Inspiring works of art or inspirational quotes are great things to introduce into your office or workspace. I have a favourite piece that is a close shot of a horse's eye I named ‘The Observer’ that I find myself looking at when I’m considering an idea or going into a state of contemplation. 

Ingredients for a Healthy Artist

Thinking of this in terms of your own physical space, i.e. your body, has relevance too. If you have the feeling that you will be creating art for most or all of your life, then practices and spaces that are easy on your body are vital to consider (another version of Being Nice to Yourself). 

Find the Conditions That Help You Create

I have made myself a ground desk so that I am in a position of a squat while I’m writing and working on my images or website. This forces me to rise from the ground many times, strengthening my muscles and tendons while not making a huge effort. I’ve noticed increased baseline strength and better flexibility in my ankles. As my photoshoots can be quite physical at times, this has its benefits. 

Others may find a standing desk, or an architecture table may work for them easier. 

Well Fed Artist = Well Fed Art

Anything that you consume will be impacting your internal environment, therefore impacting your art. Makes sense right? 


Points to consider here would be ‘Following your Bliss’ and ‘Being Nice to Yourself. This doesn't mean eating candy and chocolate all day. That isn’t actually being nice to yourself when you think of how you actually feel after eating all of that sugar. Do you think putting yourself into a sugar coma is creating a good space for art to come forth?

Preparing meals that create a healthy, well balanced internal environment will help you to create. In a way this is a method of eliminating distraction as eating food that causes your body discomfort (in the long term) is a form of distraction. 

 

The physical space that you create in is a place of great significance.

It is a place that you treat with reverence and it’s a place that you honour with frequent cleansing. It is a place you feel safe in and a place that inspires you. I am talking about both the room you create in and your body. 



6. Setting rules, parameters & boundaries

This principle is based on the concept of masculine structure holding feminine flow. 

It’s the concept of chaos and order. Chaos being the energy of creativity and order being the structure that allows it to manifest. 

 

Masculine structure could be setting a date, time and duration for how long you spend in the state of creation. 

 

Feminine flow is the state of mind, the abstract energy of creativity, images and ideas that come through when they are given that space. 

 

Creativity flows when it is being held by protective boundaries that help to define the outcome without being militant about how it comes about. Masculine structure is the bowl that holds the water that is poured into it. Is the bowl circular, square, large or small? These are the decisions that are important to make prior to or during creation.

Somewhere (preferably earlier) in the process you might apply some boundaries or rules by describing what the project is or isn’t. 

In music, a rule that defines the structure might be that it is a soft, eloquent piece, or that it’s in the key of E minor. This already sets the path before you many steps and hides from view a thousand other pathways (too much chaos). 

In art, you may apply the parameter of a certain colour palette. This will cut out a lot of chaos and noise from having too many options and allow you to step forward with confidence, even if you’re still unsure of the final result. This decision will help you get there. 

When too much structure is applied, it forms constriction. This would come in the form of harsh expectations and militant adherence to rules. When you yell a command at someone, the consequence upon failure of that command is implied inherently. This is not a good condition for art to come forth. Creativity will hide away deep within your heart when it detects these conditions. 

 

This principle could be where you encounter personal issues with the Masculine or a Father figure.

If you can identify this principle as the one you get hung up on, it might be an opportunity to sit with the idea of masculine structure and witness how it makes you feel. 

It may sound like a foreign concept but setting structure for yourself is one of the kindest things you can do. We've seen throughout history the negative imbalance of the Masculine but all too often we forget to see the healthy masculinity right in front of us. We often attribute kindness to the Feminine and Mothers but Masculine kindness is a vital force in supporting us to live our purpose. 

 

Masculine kindness is a different hue to the Feminine kindness. 

It is following through on that thing you said you would do. 

It is making a plan and gathering the materials you need for the work.

It is setting hours around working, turning off your phone & dedicating yourself during those hours. 

It is having discipline in your work



Mothers and Fathers are both required to bring a child into the world just as both the Feminine and the Masculine are needed to bring forth a work of art. 

 

Accepting the role of masculine structure into your process may be the key that you’ve been missing or it may be something that comes natural to you (in which case your issue may be too much structure).

Spend time with a healthy male role model in your life (even if you have to watch a movie) and notice how they bring a calm, confident assurance with their presence. In the presence of a well balanced masculine energy you will feel safe to play, dance or create. 

 

7. Slow your mind

Too Many Brainwaves Dude

Just as there are states of mind, there are states of actual brain (good english) that are conducive for creating. Building in practices that slow your mind down will be hugely beneficial to your creativity. 

The 5 types of brainwave pattern

  • Delta. The slowest brain wave pattern that occurs during sleep. 
  • Theta. A slow brain wave that increases when we are awake but focusing internally (e.g., daydreaming, meditating). 
  • Alpha. A relaxed frequency. Alert but not thinking too hard. 
  • Beta. Alert and processing information i.e. reading, listening intently. 
  • Gamma. High concentration/alertness.

It is suggested through studies and experiences that getting your brain into Theta and Alpha states is setting up good conditions for creativity. So how do we achieve this? 

Say No To Coffee (we can do hard things)

It is a normal and accepted part of our culture to celebrate anything that drives productivity. Coffee is a substance that is widely used to perk our minds and activate our nervous systems. I have found that in the process of creating art however, too much coffee and anything else that speeds up the mind actually gets in the way. 

I had subconsciously applied a rule that chamomile tea is only to be consumed in the evening. I felt like I was going against some law when I started drinking it in the mornings. I noticed an immediate benefit when I replaced my second cup of coffee with a chamomile tea. 

 

Meditation - hear me out

This has been a big game changer for me personally. Meditation has shown up in studies over and over again to increase overall wellbeing, peaceful internal state, restful sleep & lower stress. All the good things. It is just such a shame that to begin with it is SO BORING! There, I said it. 

Yes, meditation may at first be boring and you won’t want to sit still and you’re confronted with a million things that your brain convinces you are better things to think about rather than NOTHING (!?). 

But it’s so worth pushing through it - please believe me on this. 

Your mind can feel like a dragon to conquer.

Rather than fighting it into submission however, your surest path to the gold & riches inside the castle is to love your dragon. Sitting with yourself and moving past distraction during meditation is allowing the space inside you to grow. This is really the true home where creativity thrives. 

 

Conclusion

Along the road in pursuit of your art you will discover these principles and perhaps more. There might be one that recurs, incessantly insisting on your attention. Remember to love your dragon through all of it.

 

It is up to you how you set up your creative space. Listening to others or reading suggestions like the ones above is useful but remember to always follow your Bliss. What works for one person will not work for another. 

 

How Following Your Bliss Works - a final note. 

 

Your inner being knows the answers to your problems because it knows where you should be going (your purpose) and it knows exactly how to get you there (your instinct). An indication that you’ve found an answer is your memory (a key way Bliss shows up). I encourage you to skim read, to forget what doesn’t interest you in this article and to grab onto the words that pop out from the page. 



If any of these principles have resonated with you or have helped you, let me know! Follow me on Instagram or Quora. 



Published on  Updated on