As I write this, the world is rapidly shutting down due to COVID-19, the so-called coronavirus. Like many businesses, my office closed to encourage social isolation, and I am now working from home for the next month. My first thought was, “Woohoo, I don’t have to wear pants!” My second thought was, “I don’t want to work in my creative space.”
Now, you might be asking yourself, especially if you already work from home on a regular basis, what’s the big deal? It’s not that I don’t like my job. I actually enjoy it quite a bit. I get to solve interesting problems with interesting people, and we, as a group, have literally changed the world for the better. So what gives?
There are some factors we creatives should consider if we both work and create from home—regardless of any pending worldwide pandemic disasters. This is something that is not discussed very much, but it’s vital to the creative life.
We need to make space for ourselves to allow the creation process to work.
A personal example
Work-life balance is vital to my happiness and stable mental health. I need that ability to keep work life separate from my home life. This includes time with my wife and kids, and my toy photography. It is easy to keep those things separate when the office is in a completely separate building from where I conduct the rest of my life. Suddenly working from home for extended periods of time, however, blurs that line (and if Robin Thicke has taught me anything, “blurred lines” lead to horrible outcomes).
So, in my case there were only a few places where I could set up a home office. One was the desk where I edit photos. The other was my crafting space. Any other place was either rife with kid noises or in the way of everyone else who lives in my house.
I could work in either space—and, in fact, I have for short periods of time over the years. But consider what will happen over time. At some point I am going to have a bad day at the office. Something will go wrong and I’ll need to spend the days fighting fires (metaphorically). I can’t imagine spending all day staring at a bank of monitors while working, then wanting to spend the evening staring at those same monitors while I’m creating.
Eventually the stresses of work for days on end are going to force me out of whatever space I work in. If that space is the same area I depend on to execute my creative life, I am going to lose the desire to be creative. A non-creative Dave leads to a cranky Dave. Stress builds, depression increases, dogs and cats begin living together. Mass hysteria ensues!
My own creative space solution
I have several desks strewn about my basement that contain the detritus of my creative efforts. The reason it is strewn about is that I don’t really have a great deal of storage space, so my stuff spreads out.
My solution was to buy another desk—not for work, but one much better suited for my own creative purposes. I went from this mess of a workspace below (which was an old plywood door on a folding table)…
To this much cleaner and more manageable space.
This new space, which actually takes up less square footage than the old desk, has a lot more storage, so I was able to collapse two desks into one, and I still have storage to spare! This allows me to take the freed-up desk that is farthest from my creative space, and setup my home office, which is just a laptop, external monitor and a lamp.
One creative space protected.
I hope this post gave you some food for thought if you need to mix office spaces and creative spaces. Doubly so if you are forced into it suddenly by the unique circumstances of COVID-19.
By protecting our creative space, we can do what is necessary to support our families and keep out creative lives intact. This all leads to better mental health as we face the stressful and uncertain times we currently find ourselves in.
Keep on creating, and I’ll see you on the flip side.