Change Surroundings to Jump Start Creativity

When I get stuck creatively, I need to move. One of the advantages of working from home is that I can do this more or less at will. It could be getting up and pacing the kitchen while I talk to myself and work out an idea. I might go into the bedroom and lay down for a few minutes. Sitting in my comfy chair in the living room works sometimes. It’s the act of changing surroundings to jump start creativity. I can’t explain why it works, but it does.

Eliminate Distractions

Most of the time I need a change of surroundings because there are distractions. As I’m writing this, there’s a snow plow outside my window. I’m used to it, so I can tune it out. I also know that he’s going to move along in a few minutes, so the distraction is finite. If it was ongoing construction noise, or repairmen making a lot of noise inside the building, I’d need to go work elsewhere.

Sometimes I hate doing this, because having to move is more of a distraction. Packing up my stuff, walking to the bus stop, riding the bus, unpacking my stuff — ugh. It wrecks my flow and throws off my momentum. It’s easier to just move into another room where I can’t hear the noise, or put on headphones with white noise to cancel it out. Which, honestly, is still a change in surroundings.

Focus on Inspirations

While I do it a lot less frequently these days, I will put on music that fits the project I’m working on. It can change the surroundings by altering the mood and energy of the room. Sometimes I’ll still put on a movie or TV show as background noise, provided it doesn’t turn into a distraction. I used to keep my work spaces filled with artwork and vision boards that helped me to remember my goals.

These day I’m more inclined to take a walk down by the lake. I will come back refreshed and ready to write again. During the summer I might go outside, sit on the grass, and read. A trip to the bookstore, even just to browse, usually yields new ideas and renewed energy. Walking around a museum for an hour or so helps, too.

Find Spaces You Enjoy Being In

The reason I don’t work in coffee shops more is because it’s not part of the culture here. In the United States it’s acceptable to buy a drink and something to nibble on, then camp out with your laptop for a few hours. Here in Finland, a cafe is for getting a coffee and a snack, maybe reading a paper or meeting a friend, and then moving along. It’s a rare thing to find a place with wifi, let alone a usable outlet.

Most of what I do in a cafe is journaling and planning. That’s usually before or after a trip to the library, where is is acceptable to set up shop for an extended period of time. The library is okay, but it’s not the same atmosphere. No music, or overheard conversations. It’s kind of sterile. It’s quiet, though. There’s internet access, and plenty of places to plug in and recharge your devices. Being welcome, and surrounded by other people just there to work, makes it enjoyable on a different level.

Change Surroundings to Jump Start Creativity

I make it a point to get out at least once a week. Even if it’s only for an hour or two, I have to work somewhere else. It may not always be productive when I’m there, but I’m always more productive when I get back. As much as I’ve made my workspace comfortable, and love the view of the lake out the window in front of me, I eventually get stir crazy. Schedules and routines are great, but they can put you into a rut. It’s like cheat day for people who are on a strict diet. You need to do something different to shock your writing metabolism.

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