Curating a Sacred Space for Your Creativity

I always believed that what and when I created was far more important than where. I can write anywhere – or so I told myself. I only needed a flat surface for my computer, something to sit on, and a power outlet. It was this kind of thinking that, many decades ago, landed me in a cramped space where the bathroom door swung out and hit my chair, while my boyfriend at the time had the second bedroom of our apartment for his office (which he rarely used).

Although it is true that, while sitting behind the bathroom door in that long-ago New York City apartment, I managed to produce and publish my first creative writing, the space I allotted for myself was hardly conducive to the task. The where really does matter!

Whether we’re living in a cozy condo for one or a four-bedroom home that has become an empty nest, it’s important to make our creative space a priority – as much as where we eat our meals. After all, both places feed us.

Claim Your Space

“I’m turning a guestroom into my painting studio.” It was the opening line of a text from a woman inquiring whether an organization for which I volunteer could accept the donation of a bedframe and other furnishings. I gave her some information, but the next time I saw her I wanted to know more about the studio.

“I do oil painting,” she said matter-of-factly. “I used to do it in the kitchen. But that meant I had to haul everything out, set it up, and put it back again. We’re not using this guestroom that much anymore, so I decided to set up my studio there.” Then her voice softened, as her practical nature gave way to her creative self. “And the light is so much better there.” I was witnessing a significant moment, as an artist claimed her space.

Construct, Rearrange, Move

When my husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest three years ago, I decided to take one of the two small bedrooms in the front of the house as my office. (He took the other one.) Upstairs is a long loft-like room, home to my exercise bicycle, a few castoff bookshelves, and a closet where I store the Christmas decorations. One thing kept me from claiming it for my office/writer’s studio: my old executive-style desk is too big to bring up the stairs.

I had to ask myself what was more important to me: a big desk with no sentimental value or a bigger space to occupy. Needless to say, I bought a construct-it-yourself desk that could be built in place. Now I’m slowly making this room mine. It’s an investment of time and effort that requires a commitment to my creativity every day.

(See my video on the importance of creating and curating space that supports our dreams.)

Make It Yours

Vision boards, easels, Post-it notes, inspiring quotes, photos, and mementos – you can fill your space with everything that makes it personal. Or you can leave it stark by choice – white walls and unadorned windows, a clean aesthetic that does not impose or distract.

As Annie Dillard observed in Holy the Firm, chronicling two years of residence and reflection on an island in Puget Sound: “The room where I live is plain as a skull, a firm setting for windows. A nun lives in the fires of the spirit, a thinker lives in the bright wick of the mind, an artist lives jammed in the pool of materials… Of itself [the room] is nothing, but the view, as they say, is good.”

More than any style or decorative scheme is the authenticity of your space – it welcomes you like an old friend, with open and inviting arms.

Curate the Sacred

A space becomes sacred by its dedication to a particular purpose or ideal. What calls to mind a cathedral or temple, an outdoor sanctuary, or an ancient site also applies to your extra bedroom, snug alcove, or unused space. All it takes is intention.

As I move into my larger room upstairs, it must house both my work as a communications consultant and my fiction writing, especially my Ohnita Harbor Mystery Series. This isn’t about being organized (as in “make file folders and use them”). Rather, it’s ensuring that this space is curated to be sacred, honoring both pursuits.

There are practical considerations of carving out space, the same I do with my schedule. In addition, I am honoring the spiritual aspects as well – from favorite rocks and crystals to a few religious items, plus art and photos. These are the tools and talismans that make this space work for me.

A “Room of Our Own”

Virginia Woolf, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, said it best: “A woman must have money and a room of her own…” Money, to Virginia’s way of thinking, meant an income or stipend that would keep her from being dependent on a man. A room of one’s own (preferably with a door) refers to a dedicated space for writing and other artistic endeavors, as well as what we might call mental bandwidth. Having a room of one’s own ultimately represents safety, freedom, and clarity.

Where we create our art matters – not the size or location of the space, but rather that it exists. Whether that means a separate room or the corner of one, we need to carve it out, curate the contents, and call it our own.


Let’s Think Creatively:

Where is your space to create? What can you do to make it special and more conducive to creativity? If there is a space that you long to occupy, what (or who) is keeping you from claiming it?

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