How To Cultivate Safe Space as a Creative

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Over the last few years, as I’ve been learning to embrace the label, “Creative,” I’ve come to realize how crucial it is for me to have a safe space where I can settle into rest, find freedom to dream, allow creative thoughts to flow and leave feeling recharged. Although you can often find me, on my most productive days, camped out at a local coffee shop, for me, creativity and productivity are far from synonymous. The reality is that my most creative (and consequently life-giving) ideas are seldom birthed in cafes, but instead pop into my head when I’m feeling safe, inspired, and completely free to be myself.

Well, once I realized how difficult it is for me to find public places that check all those boxes, I set about making and maintaining the safe space I craved on my own. In my bedroom.

I used to believe that the best interior designs could be found on Pinterest, hdtv and design magazines. Now, I think the key to cultivating a “safe space” as a Creative is to learn to embrace the unique aspects of what makes you, you. Maybe it looks like what you see on Pinterest, maybe it’s totally different. Here are four things I’ve learned in the process of turning my bedroom into a place where I can focus, dream and thrive and some examples of how I’ve adhered to these “rules” in my space. You can find a full gallery of images from my room at the bottom of this post)

1. Embrace your story

Showcasing the things that make you who you are, rather than what’s currently trending or popular on Pinterest, will help keep your space (and, consequently, whatever creative projects you’re currently working on) “fad-proof.”

In my room, I’ve placed art and decorations that remind me of key moments of my personal story. Some of them are literal memories, like the pile of engineering drawings and blueprints in one corner of my room to remind me of my mechanical engineering days and childhood dreams of that profession or the scratch-off map on the wall to remind me of my travels. Other pieces are more artistic representations like the old washboard on my desk, symbolic of my time working in Frontierland at Walt Disney World.

Decorating your space with pieces that are a part of who you are also tends to make your decor incredibly unique. For example, I have my dad’s college hockey jacket on my wall. My relationship with my father is an important part of my story, even though I don’t talk about it much, and that jacket is an awesome piece of art that no one else has!

2. Embrace what inspires you

I suspect this one is the most obvious, but since it is so important, it’s worth mentioning! Spend some time really thinking about what it is that you’re inspired by and fill your space with those things! I’ve noticed that my inspirations change surprisingly quickly, if you’re like me, you might consider making the “inspirational” aspect of your room modifiable (is that a word?). For example, I’m inspired by places I’ve been, but I also travel quite a bit, and take a lot of pictures, which is why I made a frame that allows me to easily hang and swap out prints of photos I’ve taken during my travels. I have engineer prints from New England currently, but those will change with time as I visit more places that inspire me.

More things I’m inspired by: places my friends have traveled (note the postcards on my walls), my friends’ art (you’ll find a Michael Gregory print, two Sarah Kierstead prints and some watercolor art on my walls), and music (always playing through the speakers on my desk). Additionally, as a storyteller (and a human who loves to learn new things), I’m really inspired by books and things I’ve read. I have lots of books in my room. I don’t often pull them off the shelves to re-read, but knowing they’re there and seeing them every day reminds me of what’s inside them and what I’ve learned from them.

Hopefully it goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway), that these examples of how I’ve incorporated my inspirations into the design of my room are purely that. Examples. Maybe you’re inspired by different colors or silence or pottery or macrame or something else entirely!

One last comment: the inverse of embracing inspiration in your space also applies. Don’t fill your space with things that kill your inspiration or make you feel jealous and insecure. Unfortunately, I have to be really careful what films I watch in my bedroom because, since that’s my primary craft, I’m especially susceptible to feeling inadequate and self-conscious when I view work that is “way better than anything I could ever produce.” I still watch those films of course, just not in my safe space. I don’t want to tarnish the good creative energy in there.

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Some of the books I love and trinkets from travels on display in my room. As well as one of Sarah Kierstead’s photos from New Zealand (a photographer that inspires me and a place that inspires me).

3. Embrace what makes you feel safe

I’ve had an “inside spaces” board on Pinterest forever. The board is full of settings that inspire me and places I’d recreate in a heartbeat if I had an unlimited budget. However, in my day-to-day life, I consistently found myself drawn to certain spaces in friends’ homes or certain spots of my favorite restaurants that looked nothing like my Pinterest-formed ideal. It took me the longest time to put my finger on why I felt so comfortable in these less-than-perfect spaces. Eventually, it dawned on me, my favorite places are the ones in which I feel safe. OBVIOUSLY. It’s similar to the concept of feng shui, right? People want to feel comfortable and safe. My grandpa refers to this as the Cozy Corner Principle. Everyone needs a corner where they don’t feel threatened or overwhelmed. I think those are the spaces where creativity thrives. Maybe, cultivating your “cozy corner” involves a certain color scheme, or soft light, or curves or PILLOWS!!

As I mentioned earlier, creating a safe space is as much about what you don’t put in as what you do put in. For example, I’ve thought a lot about putting a large clock or calendar in my room, because I like how clocks look, but the passing of time makes me feel anxious and not creative. Instead, I have one small, analog clock on my desk. It feels un-intimidating and safe, but it’s still functional.

Clutter does not make me feel safe, so my room is generally neat and organized (in fact, tidying up is usually a part of my nightly routine. I can’t even sleep if my room is too messy!). Maybe this isn’t the case for you though! If you’re a “beauty in the chaos” type, don’t waste your time organizing! Seriously, just because people you follow post photos of a spotless room doesn’t mean yours should be that way. Your space is for YOU. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable and safe. In a similar vein, I love functional design, so rather than put (even more) photos all over my walls (eek, clutter…) I’ll opt for something like a chair or a picture frame to represent a person or a season of my life.

4. Embrace other mediums

I’ll keep this last one short since it may not apply to everyone, but I am often recharged creatively by doing things other than editing photos and videos, which is what I do for work. If I had a larger space of my own, I’d put a woodworking table and tools in a corner! After a day of staring at a computer screen, I love coming home to work with my hands and build things! Unfortunately, I have to keep the woodworking out in my backyard, for now, so instead, I put coffee brewing equipment on my desk! Making a good cup of coffee each morning provides another art form for me to practice (in 5-minute increments) that gets me away from a computer screen and helps center me. I also have drawing supplies and typography books on my desk because I like pen and ink! 🙂

So there you have it! Four things I’ve learned as I’ve begun intentionally developing my personal creative space. Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful! If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave me a comment down below! Thanks, and good luck with your space!

My room. See if you can spot all the things I referenced in this post!

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Comments
  • Geoff Ludlow
    Reply

    Brilliant, Ryan. Even your writing style is uncluttered. 🙂 Safe space equals the room in which you can be fully yourself and known and accepted (and loved). Even if you happen to be the only one in there. It’s where we live from. A reflection of our heart space. Taking the time and giving it the attention it deserves serves us so well. Thanks for this.

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