Maybe the first and most important consideration in designing your space is color. Consider painting your room in a shade that will help strengthen your work. Color greatly impacts creativity and mood. Researchers have found that subjects in a blue room solve twice as many creative problems because a light blue hue brings relaxation and free-flowing ideas, which in turn promotes divergent thinking. Blue also encourages focus, decision-making, and efficiency, as well as a feeling of peace and harmony. Or you might choose yellow walls. Yellow is an emotional color stimulating positive and creative thinking and a happy mood. Yellow increases energy flow and inspires creativity and imagination while also enhancing intelligence and mental agility. Pick up some paint chips and choose the color that speaks to you.
Once your color is chosen, use natural light as much as possible, because it improves focus and mood. Flood your room with sunlight but avoid glare. You can augment the light from a window by positioning a mirror to bounce light around room. Paint your walls with higher gloss paint to create an even brighter effect. But also consider sometimes killing all that light. A study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that dim lighting can boost creativity because “darkness elicits a feeling of being free from constraints and triggers a risky, explorative processing style.”
Studies have shown that 10-foot ceilings and a spacious area contribute to a higher creativity score because physical space opens up mental space. If your room isn’t particularly expansive, sitting in front of a window can provide the same benefits by expanding your view.
When it comes to writing, silence is not golden nor supportive of creative thinking, so provide yourself a sound system.
White noise—a random, flat frequency that sounds like static—and pink noise—such as the sound of ocean waves or rain —have both been proven to discourage creativity, although they can improve concentration and memory.
According to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research, “a moderate level of background noise enhances creativity.” Studies from the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia found that background noise of about 70 decibels boosts creativity. Coincidentally, that is the range of sound in a typical Starbucks. While our current pandemic prohibits writing at a coffee house, you can re-create the event at in your own workspace, with apps such as Coffitivity which bring the sound to you. If, like me, you prefer a more elegant background voice, you can turn on the telly and hear The Great British Baking Show, gently encouraging you to create something delicious.
Alternately, you may choose music to inspire and match the vibe of your project. When writing about New Orleans, cue up jazz or zydeco. Does your story unfold in Paris? An Edith Piaf song or Yann Tiersen accordion tune may set the perfect tone. The song that marked your first love, or the soft lullaby your grandmother whispered to you, may catapult you right back to the emotions and sensations you want to capture in your story. If driving aggression is called for, take a cue from Stephen King. In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he says, “I work to loud music—hard-rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ’n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites—but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out. When you write, you want to get rid of the word, do you not? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.”
Integrate All 5 Senses to Your Personal Style
Blue or yellow? Music or voices? Chocolate or graham crackers; coffee or tea? All of the specific choices are personal and up to you. Experiment to find what works for you.
And finally, speaking of personal, don’t forget to complete your creative workspace with personal, inspirational totems or collections that bring joy and spark ideas: photographs, toys, crystals, collections, fidget spinners or stress balls… Take a bulletin board and pin pictures of your characters or locations. Tape a quote to your monitor, such as Shakespeare’s prayer to the gods of creativity:
Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
Make your creative workspace your own imagination cocoon, fine-tuned to help you produce your best work.