Growing up on an [tooltip text=“island,”]Long Island, where I’m from, is technically, legally, a peninsula. It’s bullshit. For the sake of this article — and geography — it’s an island.[/tooltip] I always found solace in the water.
Even now, the hum of the tide takes me back to floating in the swells like a piece of driftwood, lost in the shimmering vastness of the cold Atlantic.
I remember holding myself underwater just to hear the glorious sound of nothing at all. To my anxious mind — itself like an ocean trapped in a 5-gallon fish tank — this was bliss. I filled the empty space with a silent wonder I have carried inside all my years.
This is why I now have my best ideas when I’m sitting in my bathtub looking at memes on my phone and laughing maniacally. Sometimes I’ll add a glass of wine to the mix for creative purposes. It’s not the North Atlantic but it’s water and I can sit in it and it makes my muscles feel good after a long day of standing with bad posture.
Plus there’s WiFi and 90 Day Fiancé on demand.
Soaking in a pint-size soap chamber until my fingers prune is an integral part of my daily creative process and overall sense of fulfillment. It’s where I do my best thinking and sometimes, if I remember a notebook, my writing.
Creatives have always carved out unconventional spaces like this, where they have permission to think unencumbered.
Virginia Woolf created masterpieces from an old armchair in her basement.
Mark Twain built a private study where he could work on projects without distraction.
Even literary grandpa Roald Dahl had a “writing hut” that smells like dust and tobacco to this day (no Juuls back then so the scent lingered longer).
Though the hut is now empty, what remains — an old chair, pictures on the wall, even the musk of old cigarettes — are artifacts of the mind that once occupied the space. For this reason, creative spaces serve as both a time capsule and a voyeuristic glimpse into the mind that created a thing, and what it took to get there.
Not all creative spaces have to be a writer’s pied-à-terre, of course. I asked modern creatives across industries: where do you your best creative work?
The answers will delight and inspire you. Where creatives work these days may not be a writer’s hut exactly — we’re Millennials, we don’t own property! — but the space is definitely their own.
Here are some tips on how to build a space to do your best work based on routines of real creative human beings:
Venture Outdoors (or Just Down the Street)
Kylie Sparks, actor
“Basically anywhere NOT my house that has WiFi. I get too distracted between dogs/Netflix that if I can go to a coffee shop or bar and plug headphones in, it’s time to WORK. Basically must haves are: a snack, a beverage (preferably coffee but sometimes a nice glass of wine works) headphones, and Spotify.”
Laura Bosco, writer
“Washing dishes. An idea will come together, arms deep in soap and plates, and then I’m dashing across the house (water still running) looking for that purple pen I left somewhere.”
Surround Yourself with Music — or Not
Becca Strassberg, editor
“In the smallest, quietest space possible! In college we used to have these ‘study cages’ that just has a desk, chair, and lamp. Now in our office we have phone booths and sometimes I just hide out, face the wall, and write an article from start to finish. All I need is my laptop and coffee or water (depending on the time of day). No music! Also I need to not be even a little hungry or it’s GAME OVER.”
Paris Martineau, jJournalist
“I need a couch-like area with no florescent lights overhead, wall behind me so no one can walk by when I’m working, over-the-ear noise canceling headphones, and a side table or space to put coffee.”
Caitlyn Hitt, writer
“I need music (specifically Frightened Rabbit or this one ’70s playlist) in headphones, a clean notepad, and a blue pen for scribbling or actually writing out whatever I’m trying to work out.”
Alasdair Wilkins, software engineer
“I definitely do my best work at the office — I am so unproductive if I’m at home and I have to get anything done that isn’t hardcore code nerding, because that’s more like puzzle solving. Music is another big part of it — I’m old at heart enough that I never wrapped my head around Spotify, so I just listen to music videos on YouTube.”
Amass a Bevy of Beverages
Gabriela Barkho, technology reporter
“I need at least 5 drinks by my keyboard to form a sentence”
Haley Saba, art director
“Just a beverage, moderately quiet and probably some sort of deadline or pressure. I have told myself I need to learn how to come up with great ideas and work anywhere if I wanna live the life I want to.”
Write, Don’t Type
Mike Weston, writer
- Office with high table (stool or drafting chair)
- Color coordinated books
- Coffee in ceramic mug
- Whiteboard Wall
- Leuchtturm1917 notebook
- Blue .38 Pilot Pen G2
- Orange Sharpie highlighter
- Corresponding Spotify playlist to mood and/or task
In short, the creative’s space — where a person goes to express themselves — is in and of itself a radical act of expression. These places tell a story that lives far beyond a lifetime.