Watching the raindrops hit the leaves of the Crabapple tree outside my office window today, I considered how fortunate I am to actually have a window. I’d spent at least 20 years employed at various jobs working in spaces without windows. Three of those positions required that I create, either by writing or designing or both, but rarely did I find muse while on the clock. Inspiration necessary for motivating creativity was acquired during outside walks during breaks and lunch hours or at home – where there was a window.
For about 18 years I’ve been working from a home office with two large windows; one is half-draped to keep light hitting my computer monitors and the other is devoured by the Crabapple tree. I can’t see very far beyond the window from my chair, but what I can’t see, my mind’s eye can. The seasonally, changing view is embedded in memory, as I routinely walk over to the window every hour for a Yoga stretch. (CTS and PAD will not be my downfall if I can avoid it!) Within minutes after opening the window – even when it’s Minnesota cold – for a relaxing daydream, along with a meditative, breath of fresh air, my mind kicks in with an uplifting fervor and the creativity flows!
Not being able to steal a glance at nature every time I have a mind-block would be so drastically stifling! I’ve spent a good deal of dead time staring at a blinking cursor on a white doc page or canvas of a graphics or digitizing program, and then, later during a walk or gazing out the window, I’ve been hit with an epiphany. I jot a note or capture a picture to examine later and it’s the image that helps me recall exact details of my bright ideas, because it triggers what I was thinking at the time. I’m then able to move forward in my project at a faster pace and with more clarity.
I never question why it works (I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”) but sometimes I wonder if it’s actually nature that turns on the switch of creativity or just the physical act that tells the brain to take a break so the “juices” can flow. I only know that when I find myself just sitting there trying to squeeze out the next paragraph, design or digitizing solution, staring at my pencil cup just doesn’t cut it as well! The weather can be sunny or snowy, or rainy and cloudy in a blue sky or grey, and after a brief gaze at the Crabapple, the wheel of creativity never fails to turn. Oh, sometimes a Cardinal or squirrel interrupts my focus, but the experience usually enhances inspiration, which sometimes leads to an idea for an entirely new project I can tuck away in the slush pile.
Curious to know if this is a common or personal experience, I did a little research and found that there’s actually a study of the affects to employees at work places with and without windows called “A Room with a View: A Review of the Effects of Windows on Work and Well-Being” by Kelly M. J. Farley and Jennifer A. Veitch. Now, I haven’t read the entire study (yet); however, a statement in the abstract told me I wasn’t alone. “Windows with views of nature were found to enhance work and well-being in a number of ways including increasing job satisfaction, interest value of the job, perceptions of self-productivity, perceptions of physical working conditions, life satisfaction, and decreasing intention to quit and the recovery time of surgical patients.”
Fresh air from an opened window is also said to spur creativity, because it enhances brain power, according to various claims. If you can’t open a window, brief outdoor walks should be mandatory, because it helps you get your Vitamin D, as well as “’Vitamin G’ – what experts call time spent in green spaces”, explains Prevention Magazine in “The Fresh-Air Fix”. The article also offers six ways you and your family can benefit from being outdoors, which by the way, spending time socializing has also proven to be another way to pump up creativity.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a window in your office and find it difficult to arrange hourly breaks outdoors, try taking a few tips from the ancient Chinese system of Feng Shui. Whether you believe in its laws of aesthetic energy or not, many of its principles are in agreement with scientific facts, as well as the results of health studies. Good air quality is the first thing on the list in “Create Good Feng Shui In A Small Office with No Windows” followed by displaying various types of art, including a wall mural depicting nature. That would be my preference, along with a small aquarium, if forced to work in a windowless room. I must have some place to look where my mind can take frequent walks – my body is just not that ambitious!
If you have one or more employees whom you depend on to produce great creative works, provide nature in the environment, but give them more than a potted plant. (Yes, plants do improve air quality, but it’s simply not enough!) If possible, arrange for an office with a window or hang a large photo of the Rainforest or of somewhere a mind can tip-toe through brain-titillating tulips. And by all means, allow brief, outdoor breaks for rejuvenation as frequent as reasonable. Sitting still for too long can cause dead stares into pencil cups.
Finally [and I suggest this, of course, at your discretion] cut a little slack when your hired “creator” occasionally appears to be dawdling in daydreams, while staring out the window or other focal point on your dime. Have patience. Surely, a masterpiece is about to be born!