There are a lot of ways to work. And there are even more kinds of work, but most have a few things in common. To be as elemental as possible; they happen in some kind of space, and they require your brain. So it stands to reason that the shape and quality of that space will come to bear on the performance of your brain, and impact the work that you get done. To that end I’d like to share the experience I’ve been having in my own recently rearranged Brain Space.
I alluded in a post last week to having spent a fair amount of time rearranging the furniture in my home in some kind of combined procrastination and thoughtful improvement to my circumstances. The result is my fairly compact domestic existence fits completely within my bedroom, dining room (now serving as living room), and kitchen. This leaves free the entirety of my largest room (the living room, if you were counting) free to be my workspace. Previously the living room was a living room… you know, couch, arm chair, TV bench, bookshelves, the whole nine yards, PLUS a small table in the corner (crowded with computer, tented ergo-keyboard, Wacom tablet, note paper, and microphone which I almost never used). This was all fine and good, but I moved here to this apartment (which is fairly large for a single man of modest means) after sharing an apartment of 2/3 its size, and then taking up residence in a spare bedroom at my parents house before making the big relocation. Point is, my existence has been pretty compact over the last few years, and that left me with sorta swimming in this apartment. More importantly I took stock of my habits. And wouldn’t you know, my best creative flow was happening when I took my Laptop to the nearly empty dining room and sitting at my “dining table” (really a folding-leg table slightly smaller than a typical card table) and sitting on a $6 stool from IKEA or an old oak dining chair.
Now I’ve taken all the pictures off the walls, and put the former dining table in the middle of my new, large, nearly empty workroom space. the laptop sits in the middle and the fancy keyboard only comes out when there’s a lot of writing to do. This leaves me with a distraction-reduced space for working complete with empty hardwood floor. I’ve jokingly started referring to the room as “the rehearsal hall” because it reminds me very much of a theatre rehearsal space. Its just a room. I’m not pretending that any of my work REQUIRES fancy equipment, or perfect circumstances, a great chair, a stack of reference material, or a wall covered in inspirational aphorisms. I just need a space for things to happen. Sometimes I lay on the floor and let all my muscles fall into the wood. An ounce of awareness and relaxation is worth at least a pound of comfort. And a hardwood floor does more for awareness than any chair I’ve ever met.
I’m not going to think of this as asceticism, just a realization that the pomp and circumstance are really just clutter. All that is required to invite the muse is that you show up. If there’s lots of stuff, if there’s too many tools and connectors and hoopla and jargon, I know that even if I go there, there’s a good chance I won’t ever show up.