Creativity is the lifeblood of writing and something that most writers try to nurture. But have you ever considered how your physical writing space can support – or hamper – your creative abilities?
By Lineé van der Meer
You’ve been staring at a blank screen for the last hour. Your fingers are on the keyboard, ready to type away, but for some reason, there is just… nothing.
It might be time to stop staring at the screen and look at your writing space.
Research has found that minor environmental adjustments can support your brain’s ability to generate new ideas, make connections and think out of the box.
Here are three science-backed ways in which your writing space can help to get your creative juices flowing:
Write in a room with dimmed lighting
It turns out that dimming the lights is not only a good idea when you have a romantic evening in mind – it’s also great for when you need a creativity boost.
An article published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that creative performance improves when lighting is dimmed.
“We expected that darkness would offer individuals freedom from constraints, enabling a global and explorative processing style, which in turn facilitates creativity,” writes the authors. One of their studies successfully proved this hypothesis, confirming the benefit of dim lighting for creativity.
Perhaps time to invest in black-out blinds and a dimmer switch for your writing room?
Play some café background noise while you write
If you’re a writer who believes you do your best writing in your favourite café, you might be on to something.
A 2012 Canadian study found that creativity can be enhanced by ambient background noise, specifically multi-talker noise like that you would find in a café. The trick, however, is to get the noise level just right.
The creativity sweet spot, the researchers found, is a noise level in the moderate range (50 -85dB). This will be just enough distraction to challenge your ability to process information, making you rely more on abstract thinking.
But take care not to turn up the volume too much. According to the authors, high noise levels (85dB and above) “impairs creativity by reducing the extent of information processing.” It is simply too distracting.
Not keen to head out to a café? Bring the café to you!
Mind the air temperature in your writing space
You may not have given the air temperature in your writing space much thought. As long as it’s relatively cosy and you’re sheltered from the elements, right?
A study published in 2009 used EEG to look at alpha brainwaves – those involved in creativity – and found that an air temperature of between 24⁰ – 26⁰C increases alpha waves.
Temperatures under 21⁰C and higher than 29⁰C lead to a decrease in alpha waves and less optimal brain states when it comes to creativity.
Your writing space is so much more than just the space in which you write it. It is – scientifically confirmed – a space with untapped creativity-supporting potential.
So, switch on the aircon, play that background noise and draw the curtains… It might just save you hours of staring at a blank page in the future.
About the Author:
Lineé van der Meer is a South African-born clinical psychologist turned stay-at-home-mum living in Auckland with her husband, two young kids, and a spirited Spoodle. She co-founded Moving On, a mental health charity that helps Kiwi mums who have experienced intimate partner violence access long-term funded psychotherapy. Whenever she has a quiet moment, she enjoys writing about issues related to psychology, motherhood and feminism.