Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

The nook of creativity

This month’s IndieWeb Carnival is hosted by yours truly! ✨

The topic is creative environments and if you want to particate, learn more about the carnival, the topic and participation instructions in my announcement post:

I invite you to share your thoughts, experiences and what ever ideas pop to your mind about creative environments. I have left the topic intentionally bit vague. If it doesn’t immediately give you an idea, maybe some of these prompts could help you.

This blog post is my own entry to this month’s event. You can find other’s submissions in the aforementioned post where I update the list daily as new submissions roll in.

My creative nook

I do most of my blog writing at home, at my desk. But it’s not a place for me where I feel especially creative and whenever I need to flex my creative muscles, I head out. Sometimes I take my tablet with me and actually write blog posts but more often I take my notebooks and a pen with me. I enjoy sitting in pubs and libraries, writing down my thoughts into notebooks and following my thoughts wherever they may lead.

I love the life around me: the indistinct chatter in a pub, people walking past and every minding their own business. That kind of white noise around me has always helped me get into the flow. The worst environment for me to write in is in complete silence.

Another reason why I’m more creative in the public spaces is that at home, my desk is where I work, play video games and participate in online discussions and it’s difficult to context switch from functional to creative without changing the scenery. Even when I’m writing code at work, I’m often spending a lot of time with my notebook away from my desk to take advantage of the different environment.

I’ve always had my local pubs where I go to write. Whenever I’ve moved to a new country, city or neighbourhood, I’ve sought out a good place to go to write. The pandemic was a horrific time for my creativity because I was stuck at home. I did end up writing a lot but I contribute that more to the fact that I suddenly had way more time at my hands.

Different type of writing requires a different environment

I write different kinds of things and in them, creativity shows up in different formats.

For technical writing, the creativity happens most often up front: coming up with ideas on topics to write about, deciding what kind of examples to use and so on. Most of the rest of the work is rather mechanical: creating those code examples and making sure they run without errors, finding references from documentation and other blog posts and writing the technical bit.

This is the part where I want to have a proper desk, good monitor and keyboard so I can write and research and browse at the same time.

For my personal “hey this is what’s happening in my life”, the creativity comes in during the storytelling phase: what experiences, journeys and happenstances to share, how to build a story that’s interesting to read and that documents the journey I want to document for future me.

For other writing like opinion or idea pieces, the creativity is involved in every part of the writing and editing process. It’s about ideation, research, planning, writing, editing, storytelling, linking to others’ writing and so on. This is where being out there in the public to write serves me greatly.

Research and creativity

Creative thoughts don’t happen in a vacuum. It needs constant feeding: reading, listening, watching, discussing and interconnecting different ideas. Just like the background noise of a busy pub helps me get into the flow mode when creating, it also helps me focus when reading. And I tend to take advantage of all the empty time between things: waiting in a bus stop, waiting for a friend, sitting on a bus or train. I like to read a lot and have quite a nice collection of blogs I enjoy in my RSS reader.

Taking notes of what I’ve read/listened/watched is a crucial part of making this part of my creative process. I have written about my note taking process here. I take short notes of things that evoke some feelings or spark new ideas in me and put them into my notes system. Going through these when creating something new helps me create much more vibrant and interconnected pieces. I always carry a couple of notebooks with me so I can jot down a quick note on the go and then add it to my system when I get home.

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