Protecting Your Creative Space: Social Isolation and COVID-19

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.

Conclusion

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.

[dave]

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6 Comments

  1. Leave it to the toy photographers blog to post something currently on my mind too. While my office has switched to Work From Home too, I am looking to these posts for inspiration to keep the creative juices flowing. My fear is that my basement (which previously was a place of enjoyment and solace) has turned into a location that I now fear due to my “office” now taking up part of it.

  2. Yeah, I share your concerns, as I am writing this from my “office”, which is 6ft from my Photoshop computer.

    One thing I have been doing is setting up a routine. My normal routine before the virus was to wake up, help my wife get the kids out of bed, then bike to the office, spend my day there, then bike home.

    Now I am trying the same thing. I get up, rouse the kids, go for a bike ride, around the neighbourhood, and when I get home I immediately go to my home office desk. I then do my work. At the end of the day I go back upstairs after work and act like I do when I normally get home – hug the kids, kiss the wife, ask about their day etc. This way there is a clear line between “work” and “home”.

    I’ve only been doing that for 2 days, so hopefully it works. So far so good.

  3. Mary Wardell

    Good post, Dave, and on a subject that has become ever more timely. I’m retired but I do everything on one computer so that can be a problem. There are days I don’t want to stare at my screen in a creative way at all. Luckily I also have a craft room where I can get away from the computer and do my quilting and other crafts. It helps.

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