“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris, Born Mar. 24, 1834.
I want to talk about this in three ways.
First…. While you can eventually apply that to your house, let's at least start with your work space, wherever that may be.
As some readers know, I keep an office away from home. It's currently a high-ceiling loft studio in a one-building office park. It's full of books I want to read, and art I like to look at, video games I want to play, and LEGO sets I want to build.
Because these are all things I find inspiring. I enjoy being surrounded by them. When I get bored or stuck with work, there are myriad things I can entertain myself with to get a spark and dive back in.
Now not everyone this has such a luxury available. Not everyone can be in total control of their workspace, especially when you work for someone else.
But it can be incredibly valuable to surround yourself with items that support a creative state. Even if you can only do it minimally. Have these inspirational things you like within view and at hand, for when you need a spark or a mental break.
Second… When you're working on a deep and difficult problem, you want to go minimal. Surround yourself with ONLY the things you know you might need to work on it. Research, tools, raw materials, whatever.
Because for particularly thorny problems, hints of other projects, entertaining side activities, even posters or other decorations can be distracting.
Your mind wants to escape the difficulty and will try to wander. By going bare minimalist, you give it nothing to distract itself with – it gets bored, and begins dedicating all the thought engines to the items at hand.
You can basically fool your brain into concentrating ONLY on what you need to get done.
Third… You should develop the habit and ability to be able to write no matter where you find yourself. Because what could be more minimal than needing no special accommodations at all for you to be able to work?
I write in busy coffee shops in the morning. I write in loud bars at night. I have a small iPad, and my iPhone, and a notebook in both cars. Just in case. I'm ready to go wherever I find myself.
And that ability is something I cultivated. Through practice. I'm doing it now. Writing this from a coffee shop on my iPad while the breakfast rush tornado swirls around me.
Later I will go do some creative planning in my nerd cave/office where inspiration and connections and ideas surround me.
And this afternoon, when I have a client project to work on, I'll find a quiet spot at the cafe across the street, when they're in between lunch and dinner rush, and all I will bring is a legal pad, printouts of my client's material, and an pencil and highlighter.
There you are – three different ways that controlling your environment can augment and amplify your creativity AND productivity. It's not a matter of choosing one over the other. It's a matter of using all the ones that work for you.
But never paint yourself in to RELY too much on an environment you can't control.