Minimalism and Creativity
I recently moved. I don’t move often partly because I hate it. It takes so much out of me and wrecks my creativity. Is that an introvert thing? I don’t know. All I know is that I haven’t been able to write a blog post in months, I’ve recorded no videos, and the only reason why I was able to take photos and write poetry over the summer is because I had actual deadlines. If people hadn’t been counting on me or paying me, I don’t know if I would have accomplished anything creative the entire summer.
Over the last year, I’d been thinking and learning a lot about minimalism- minimalism and the environment, minimalism and society, minimalism in the black community, and so on. I was slowly getting rid of things, cleaning out my home, and thinking through what really mattered to me.
During the move, though, I was hit hard by just how much I really owned! It’s so easy, when you’ve lived somewhere for years, to just tuck things away and forget about them. It felt like, the more I packed, the more I realized I had. I owned things I didn’t even like. I was storing things I hadn’t used in years! That’s crazy. So I gave and threw away so many things. I felt more free.
Even now that I’m finally settled in the new place, I’m still finding things that I need to get rid of. I guess this is an ongoing process of questioning what you own and asking yourself if it really brings you joy or serves a purpose in your life.
I’m not an extreme minimalist. I’ll never own just 50 items or have one chair and no art on the walls. That’s just not my style. I love books and I have hundreds of them. I have a small but growing record collection of Soul, R&B, and Hip Hop albums. And photos. So many photos. But I’m happy to care for those things and let them take up space because they bring me joy. For me, minimalism is a mindset and lifestyle.
Through this process I realized that my creativity is connected to my environment. When I feel like things are cluttered or in chaos, I have to work much harder to create something. When I feel free and my space is reflective of how I really want to live, then creativity comes easier. It just flows.
So, is there a connection between minimalism and creativity? Does excessive consumerism (especially of the conspicuous kind) hurt our art and our ability to create freely and authentically? If so, why?
I’m not sure I have answers to the above questions but I think they are worth thinking through if you are an artist of any type.
Perhaps part of it is that, a lifestyle of consumerism keeps us focused on acquiring more and never being satisfied. Capitalism needs us to feel unsatisfied regularly. If we aren’t satisfied with what we have, we’ll buy more and more and more. The result is that we get stuck in a cycle of consuming instead of creating.
In order to create though, I think we have to be working from a place of feeling that we have all we need. I need to feel equipped. I need to feel that I have the right tools, enough inspiration and ability, and abundant potential when I begin a project. I know that I’ve been created to create. All I need to create is available to me for my benefit and the benefit of others. I can’t work if I feel like I don’t have enough.
Another part of this is that I don’t mind working in a little chaos but it has to be the right kind of chaos. We’ve all probably heard that messy people are generally more creative people, right? I, for one, like to bring up this fact whenever I need to defend my messy desk. However, as I’ve thought about this I realize that it can’t just be any kind of messy. Clutter and uninspiring junk everywhere aren’t helpful. That just drags me down. I don’t want to create surrounded by mail and things I don’t really like. However, if I’m surrounded by things that inspire me, then I don’t mind it getting messy while I’m working. I may sit down at a clean desk when I begin a poem but, after a few hours of work, I have books of poetry and art all over the place, music playing, a cup of tea or coffee, colored pencils or pens (because drawing helps me think), and more. So clearing out what doesn’t inspire has helped me focus on what does and on what I really want to create.
So, how do you think you and your art/work are affected by your space? Have you thought about living a more minimalist lifestyle?