I love working on the porch behind my house on Prince Edward Island because there are sheep on the farm below. There is something so simple and pleasing about the way the sheep graze together, drifting in a slow white cloud across the grass, that my mind literally feels like it’s opening up windows to blow out the cobwebs in my brain.
In the past few years, I have been trying to pay more attention to my work space and its effect on my productivity. Whether I’m working in an office, my house, a hotel, a library, or a cafe, I can literally feel where the creative energy is greatest. You can, too.
I cannot, for instance, work anywhere in our dining room except in the chair by the windows overlooking the side yard. I can’t work in the downstairs living room or the family room, but words flow out of me like the Colorado River whenever I write in the upstairs guest room.
In my barn office, I knew at once that my desk had to go in the far right corner, angled slightly so that the front of the desk faces the French doors. Likewise, on the porch I had to put my writing table in the left front corner facing the perennial garden, rather than facing the back field or the asparagus garden.
I still don’t fully understand why.
I am not a particularly compulsive person. I tend to shove clothes into drawers rather than neatly fold them. I don’t alphabetize my books. My computer bag is a lost-and-found of pens without caps, paper clips, and crumpled receipts.
Nor am I especially mystical. I don’t subscribe to feng shui beliefs, meditate, chant, or do yoga to tap into my creative reserves. I don’t rely on noise-canceling headphones or a special ritual when I start writing. Kids chattering, dishes clattering, dogs snoring? Fine.
But the energy of a place can really affect my work. I knew at once, when a friend introduced me to the Bates reading room in the Boston Public Library, that the energy was right. I have a great time writing in the Diesel cafe in Cambridge, as long as I sit toward the back and face the pool table. I loved writing on the side porch of the cabin I rented in Mendocino. I had to set up my card table in a certain corner of the back bedroom while on a recent writing retreat in Rockport, because nothing else felt right.
Is this all in my head? Or is there really more creative energy in certain places than others?
Consider this: the universe is made up of energy and so are we. Socrates believed that the energy of the soul is separate from matter, and quantum physicists have shown that atoms are like miniature tornadoes emitting waves of electrical energy. Our bodies are made up of atoms, and those atoms are constantly giving off and absorbing energy. This energy can even be measured outside the body. So why wouldn’t certain places contribute to your creative energy more than others?
Check it out for yourself. If you have an office, try putting your desk in at least three different locations in that room. Spend at least two days working in each part of the room to see what happens.
If you typically work at the kitchen table or in the dining room, try setting up a different table in another room—even a card table will do. Test every room to see which one helps increase your creative energy instead of draining it.
As you go from place to place—and this is true whether you’re drawing, designing a garden plan, or working on a novel—you’ll discover certain places where the creative energy flows better than others. Notice where you typically sit in your favorite coffee place and deliberately try a different table. Do the same thing in your library and on your patio or porch.
Really pay attention to how these places make you feel, and you might start to observe certain things all of these positive creative places have in common, like the amount of light or the orientation of your back to the door, etc.
Each of us has an infinite store of creative energy within. It’s just a matter of finding the medium we’re passionate about and the right environment for channeling that energy.
Yep, I know this sounds woo-woo bonkers to some of you. But try it and let me know how it goes.
Meanwhile, I will keep tuning in and channeling the energy wherever and whenever I’m lucky enough to find it—like this back porch, watching the sheep.