HWEZ HQ: The Home Office
onto the old blog...
Happy Monday, humans! It's blog time.
I don't know if you've noticed but these have been fortnightly in an effort to create some rhythm and routine in my working life.
As a freelance illustrator work hours can easily blend into any time I'm not cooking, eating, sleeping or spending time with my family, and the flexibility is great but it also means the brain is almost always in work-mode waiting for that next opportunity to sit down with the iPad or the Wacom to move the needle on personal or client projects. That pattern is not so great. Not for mental health, not for physical health and just not good for being present in the quiet moments where genuinely new or exciting ideas might pop up and alter the course of things I'm currently working on.
That's a fore-thought for todays blog anyway, as I'm talking about a place I spend a lot of my time when I'm creating. My work space.
It's been asked in a number of ways but recently a member of HIWEZ Squadron dropped a question that I think put it really succinctly.
Bernard asked: "I'm trying to find my "work space" or "creative space" at home and was curious about your space, routine, and how you stay so focused on your work. Any suggestions?"
I thought this was a great structure to answer so many of the questions I get because it touches on three core creative values. Space, Routine and Focus. So I'll be answering them in those categories.
First off. Space:
Your creative space is going to be dictated by what's available to you. My own creative space has been very different from place to place (My wife and I have moved around a bit). From a set-up and put-away situation on the kitchen table, to my own desk in the living room, then into a small and crowded shared spare room and finally to it's current state which is a study all to myself. And even though it sounds like a consistent improvement each time (don't get me wrong, it's great to be in my own office) each state of my creative space has had pros and cons.
Hiwez advice here: if you can find a space in your home that can be your own personal creative corner like a desk or chair then that is going to do wonders for your routine and your focus.
This is a complicated creature because creative people can operate so differently and in different stages of life. My routine just after University was far more relaxed than it is today and I would say that my output was probably about the same. Less consistent but certainly the same volume of work per week.
I have personally struggled with routine for as long as I can remember. It wasn't until taking on client work, and as a result obtaining a deadline that wasn't my own, that I really got to grips with a rhythm of work that produced consistent results. Which mean me realise my problem wasn't with routine, but with prioritising my own projects. That was a turning point in allowing me to accept I can finish projects but I had to treat them like work and not a side project.
These days as a new father with a wife who is also self employed, routine is a shifting picture. We try one routine for a few weeks and when it stops working for one reason or another we have a talk and we change it to a new routine. That in itself is a routine of its own now.
Hiwez advice here: Be honest with yourself about your current relationship with routine. And understand that if you try a routine that doesn't work that's ok. Remove what didn't work and try something new, try and keep what did work in the routine.
Focus almost feels like the result of getting Space and Routine in a good place. But even in the best office with a steadfast routine, if you're going to give yourself a fighting chance at feeling like you accomplished or simply completed something then you need a crystal clear focus of the finished product in your mind.
However if your goal feels too large or too vague, like creating a comic series or gaining two high paying clients then you might need to look at the more granular details of the journey and use the checkpoints as micro-goals just so you can feel the progress and you don't get too disheartened when things still feel too far away after a couple of months of hard work.
If you're struggling with distraction during your working session then one of the other two parts of the triangle may need revisiting.
The room you're working in looks out to the neighbourhood and you find yourself just people-watching?
Reposition the desk so it's not such a temptation, or get a net for the window.
The next door neighbour is a round the clock DiY enthusiast?
Grab a pair of headphones and listen to some music or a podcast, see if there is a better spot on the other side of the house.
Focus is a difficult beast to wrestle with if you're having troubles because oftentimes it's that intangible element that makes you think you're just not "in the zone", but usually it comes down to factors that are resolvable with a little problem solving.
Hiwez advice here: Give yourself small, achievable goals and don't be disheartened if it takes longer than you think. If it's a project you've never done before then you don't have the data to forecast an accurate timeline. Just keep moving forward and you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you can create.
Bonus round. Ritual:
If you're tying to implement a routine and having trouble then something to consider is to create a ritual just outside of your routine to help get your head in the right space. Like a warm up stretch before a workout. If you know your routine means you need to end up sitting down and drawing for hours then just going to the desk and sitting down might seem a bit laborious or unappealing, and so you'll find ways to avoid it like productive-procrastination (doing the dishes or finally painting the spare room, stuff that needed doing, but now it's an excuse).
Making a ritual may take the edge off that, especially if it naturally leads you to the desk. For example making a coffee with that nice cafetière you have, so that you end up enjoying the process and sitting down with something delicious to start your session at the desk.
And that's a wrap for this blog.
It's been one of my wordier ones but it's been great to dive into some of the questions I've been asked over the years, if you've made it all the way to this point then I hope you've gleaned something useful from it if nothing else then an account of how the processes of another creative person looks.
In the near future I'll be writing another post looking more into the technical side of Hiwez HQ. What products, programs and peripherals I use to do my job. If you're interested to learn about that then make sure you're subscribed to the newsletter to be among the first in the know and if you want to support the art and get a bunch of fun digital freebies then be sure to take a look at enlisting to Hiwez Squadron!
That's all for now, stay awesome!