How To Create A Stellar Creative Workspace

When we were on the hunt for a new apartment in Brooklyn, my husband and I never thought for even a moment that we would be able to find one with an office. I mean, are you kidding me? Even though I work from home and a home office would clearly be a helpful addition, I was savvy enough to know that finding a reasonable two-bedroom apartment in New York was akin to finding a perfectly in-tact, unscathed bagel in a dumpster. Like, I guess it's possible, but you've got to get reeeaaaally lucky. (Also, why you are looking for bagels in a dumpster? Examine your choices!)

So when we stumbled upon an apartment that was within our price range (or at least it was after we increased our budget), in a neighborhood we loved (okay, just on the outskirts, but still), and had not one but TWO official bedrooms (fine, sure, one of them was about 80 square feet), we wasted no time putting in our offer. We did everything short of crying out, "PLEASE TAKE OUR MONEY, APARTMENT DIETIES!" and within two months, we signed the agreement. The rarest of dumpster bagels was ours.

We've been living in this apartment for nearly two years, and yet I still walk into my office every morning with a sense of awe. If I'm being honest, I'm so in love with this room that I often think of it with a romance that I would usually reserve for my husband. How are you mine? I don't deserve you. You are a treasure. 

That said, I still remember what life was like pre-office, and you know what, honestly, it was just fine. That's because, as someone who works from home, I have always made it my mission to carve out a dedicated creative space for myself. Whether you have an abundance of extra room to build a visionary wonderland or you've only got a tiny, dank corner of your living room to work with (that was my situation before we moved), there are plenty of things you can do to make your space more creatively accessible. 

Ready to amp up your creative space? (ALSO, DO YOU WANT TO SEE PICTURES OF MY OFFICE?) Here's what imma suggest for you:

Designate a territory

Stop balancing your laptop on top of piles of dirty laundry. Stop creating in the same place where you eat chili. Stop prioritizing everything else over your creative work, and actually decide on a space in your home (or in some fancy studio, I guess, if you're excessively rich) to get your artsy fartsy on. For my apartment, that decision was simple. I mean, I guess I could have put a baby in this room or something like that, buuuuuuuuut nope.

Anyway, my point is this: when you actually designate a space for your creative work, you in effect treat your creative work with a higher degree of seriousness. And seriousness often invokes follow-through. And don't you want to follow through on your creative endeavors? ME TOO. So whether it's a second bedroom, a closet, a garage, an attic, a shed, or a pillow-filled corner of your bathroom, make some space for your creative genius. 

Mark your territory

Guys, let your inner alpha dog out and mark that creative territory (could I have chosen a less crass way of saying this? Sure. But then I wouldn't be me.)! By this, I mean do whatever you can to stake your claim over your space. Jazz it up with the things that make you feel like oh-yes-this-is-mine. For me, that meant creating a gallery wall of some colorful prints over my desk (and by the way, don't judge me for not getting frames. Washi tape is whimsical and framing stuff is hard). 

Also, it should be noted that I painted that picture of the pomeranian. It is potentially my life's greatest achievement.

Fall in love with your desk

Really, I just want to take a moment to brag about my desk. Is that a thing people brag about? I got it years ago at IKEA as a space-saving measure in my former Brooklyn apartment. Its name is NORDEN and it collapses to become a shelf whenever it's not busting its ass as a desk (did you know tables have asses? The more you know!).

In our old apartment, I shoved this thing right under a book shelf in our living room and felt so proud working in a foldable space that was all mine. In our new place, it also works well considering my already small office doubles as a guest room (and yeah, I know I'm kind of breaking my first rule by making this a multi-use space, but we don't entertain sleepover guests that often, so shove it). 

Whatever the case, find a sturdy surface that makes you proud to get down to some creative bidness. While you're at it, get a standing desk so you can live longer maybe!

Get some natural light (if you can)

Can I get a hallelujah for some Vitamin D?!

In my former apartment, natural light was a luxury we simply couldn't afford. When you looked out the window, this is what you saw:

 
 

And that, by the way, was on a slow day. On a more typical day, there would also be stray garbage, feral cats, and, inexplicably, burnt toast adorning this already dismal alley. It was a real treat for the senses.

Of course, I still made it work, but it certainly wasn't ideal. I could feel myself getting sluggish and easily distracted as I frequently wondered to myself -- is it still daytime?

Natural light is scientifically proven to boost creative productivity by regulating your body's production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you all sleepy-sleepy-Netflix-and-chill-y. Now that I have oodles and oodles of natural light streaming through the window of my office, I can attest to the fact that it really has an effect on my energy level. Not only that, but being by a window with a view is a solid reminder that the world is out there -- a world with people, homes, dogs, and possibilities -- and that kind of inspiration is invaluable. 

So if you can, strategically place your workspace by a window. Even if all you can see outside is a bunch of burnt toast, it's better than nothing. 

Have your favorites on-hand

What are the tools in your life that make you feel like an artist? What is the pen, notebook, pair of scissors, organic molding clay (I think I made that one up) that makes you feel as though you are a master of your craft? Whatever it is, make sure it's readily available to you. 

Looking for some ideas? Here are some of my personal favorite tools that I keep at my desk*:

  • Le Pens by Marvy - These are the best pens in the galaxy. They are essentially thin markers and they will change your writing game forever. 
  • Post-it notes - I'm a sticky note fiend, and in a minute, I'll show you why. 
  • This mega pretty weekly desk calendar from Rifle Paper Co. - I don't use a physical planner, but this weekly list helps me scratch that handwritten itch I have when it comes to planning my week.
  • My favorite sketchbook by 3M - I use it as a notebook because lined paper is the enemy of my creativity.
  • All of the washi tape - I never run out of uses for this stuff.
  • A kitchen timer for when I need to work on a deadline - Mine is in the shape of a bellpepper, but I just put in an order for this adorable cheeseburger timer
  • Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon - A super inspiring, short, fun book I like to keep by my desk when I need a jolt of creative encouragement.
  • A S'well water bottle for hydration and cuteness purposes

Visually depict your ideas/projects/tasks/calendar/etc (if it helps you)

Guys, this is my idea wall! Isn't she something? This is where I plan out every single creative project I intend to tackle (and some that I likely will never tackle, but that's okay). Here's how I do it:

I've divided the wall into two sections (with washi tape! I told you I never run out of uses for that stuff): "Current Projects" on the right and "Future Dreamy Stuff" on the left. Anytime I have an idea of any sort -- sane or otherwise -- I write it down on a sticky note. If it's relevant to a current project, I slap it on the right. If it's not, I slap it on the left. Then, every day, I spend time organizing my sticky notes into obvious patterns and categories. It's like doing a puzzle of my own creative brain, and it is hands down my favorite way to brainstorm. 1 out of 1 would recommend.

Whether you want to steal my idea wall or not, if you're a visual processor, consider creating a space like this where you can see your ideas. That way they are always staring at you, practically forcing you to bring them to life. 

Commit to your space

Honestly, it's crazy easy to make a creative workspace. It's easy to decorate a room. It's easy to buy a brand new desk and inspirational posters and a heapin' helpin' of your favorite pens. 

What's hard is showing up. A dedicated space makes things more fun and focused, sure, but it doesn't write the essay for you, or draw the sketch for you, or develop the romance story between your protagonist and her zombie lover. That's all your doing.

So develop your space, fill it with all kinds of inspirational and practical stuff. Or, you know, don't. That's totally fine, too. My feelings won't be hurt. 

But whatever you do, just keep showing up.  

What are your must-haves for a creative workspace?

*All of the products listed are affiliate links, which means I make, like, a ha'penny if you end up purchasing something, but I really do stand by all of this stuff and use it daily, so get off my case!