Creative Space – Guest Post from Lauren Mann

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

– Henry David Thoreau

wildwood retreat center home studioThere is something so comforting about being in the presence of nature. Hearing the birds and forest creatures, seeing beautiful views of oceans and mountains, feeling the wind, tasting a berry picked fresh from the bush, it connects with all of our senses. We are able to fully be ourselves without all the distractions of technology and city life. But it isn’t called the wilderness for nothing, as there is still a very real sense of danger and fear of the unknown when we are away from our normal surroundings. It is this tension that I find to be so inspiring and where many of my songs and writings are birthed. When I am too comfortable I can get complacent, but when I am surrounded by the wild I become more aware of myself, able to find the words to truly express myself.

I’ve spent many years on the road, never having much time to sit down and delve into a piece of writing, rather my moments of inspiration were fleeting and fragmented. My notebook was covered in bits and pieces of words and lyrics, and my iPhone was full of whispery voice memos, attempts at recording ideas while driving in the van. It was frustrating at first, but I realized that if I was ever going to release another album, I’d have to make use of those little moments of time.

I remember one instance where I had been working on a song in my head while on tour, writing down bits of lyrics and coming up with melodies here and there. We were in Mansfield, OH and had some time in the morning before hitting the road so we stopped in at a little café called Relax, It’s Just Coffee. I ordered a latte, unusual for me, and noticed a piano in the corner. While everyone was hanging out and drinking their pour-overs, I sat at the piano and was able to work out a melody and structure for the song. It wasn’t the ideal environment for me to create in, but I was able to make it work.

creative spaces and recording environments are important and very niceAfter recently buying a house and planting some roots on Pender Island, BC, I am so lucky to constantly be surrounded by trees and water and ocean breezes. But even being surrounded by natural beauty, I still need to carve time out of my schedule to create. Everyone works in different ways, but I’ve found that in order for me to be creative no matter what setting I’m in, there are a few things I try and do to make sure I’m maximizing my space and time.

1. Make an organized space where I can sit down and work on whatever creative project I have on the go. For me, this means getting our home studio up and running and set up in a way that I can use it easily and record any ideas I have. If the space is messy or complicated, I won’t want to spend time in it. I also try to add elements to the space to make it comfortable and inspiring, like some houseplants, art, and always a pot of tea.

2. Prioritize time in my schedule. With any art form and creative endeavor, you want it to come naturally and not to force the creativity. While there is great truth in this, there is also something to be said for intentionally making time and forcing oneself to create. I easily get distracted by housekeeping (I have a thing for clean floors) and all the tasks that come along with running a business, but at the end of the day, if I don’t make time to
create, there won’t be a business! It’s all about balance, and I have a long way to go with that.

3. Lastly, I surround myself with people who inspire me to work on my craft. I am lucky to work on music with my husband who helps me stay focused and who encourages me to work on songwriting before other tasks. The motivation of having shows booked or people to jam with also helps encourage productivity because it means I have something to achieve within a certain deadline. I am a big advocate of setting goals, even if they’re small. Once a goal or a deadline is achieved, it’s great motivation to move on to the next goal.

In the end, find what works for you and what environment fuels your creativity. There is no right or wrong way, the only wrong thing is to let our creativity get pushed to the side. I hope that these few tricks will help you find fulfillment in whatever creative endeavour you pursue.

Lauren and her husband Zoltan just launched Wildwood Artist Retreat, their home studio space where musicians can come to decompress and be inspired to write and new songs. For more information, visit www.wildwoodartistretreat.com.