Spaces, Productivity, and You

Now this space gets me. Grain Store Cafe & Bar inside Gatwick Airport, England. 

Now this space gets me. Grain Store Cafe & Bar inside Gatwick Airport, England. 

My last post about Writing Where You Are generated a bit of conversation on my Facebook page, mostly about where people can and can’t write: my sister likes writing on trains and planes; I cannot write on trains and planes (well, to be more specific, since I am writing this on a train: I cannot write academic pieces on trains and planes); my friend M cannot write on trains or planes either. (M and I both agree that we don’t like the small spaces or the notion of people looking at us while we write.)

My previous post and the ensuing FB conversation touched on something I’ve been thinking about for a while: what do I like about writing in some spaces more than others? And why do I like writing in some coffee shops more than my carefully curated home office or department office?

I don’t know. I mean, I kinda know, but I don't know how to replicate that feeling in my own spaces. 

Here’s what I know I do like about the spaces that inspire me to write:

  • Firm but comfortable chairs that don’t squeak or wobble
  • Warm tones (a bit of brick really gets me going) make me feel cozy
  • Hints of bright yellow, vibrant pink, turquoise (all my favorite colors); but not too much of my favorite colors
  • Just cool enough temperature that where I can feel the coolness on my face; I also love the cool enough temperature where I can wear my scarf (again, I love that cozy feeling)
  • Warm woods, either as accents or as tables
  • Some green plants to add life
  • The whirrrrr of background noise, not loud enough to draw me into a conversation or distract me

What I don’t like, and which don’t inspire me to write:

  • Metal chairs and tables
  • Overly sterilized, modern design elements
  • Baristas who chatter too loudly about their personal issues and workplace drama (this happens A LOT in coffee shops)
  • Overly cold or overly hot temperatures
  • Lack of natural lighting
  • No windows
  • Abstract and modern art
  • Blank, textureless walls
  • Too many bright and bold colors that feel cooling instead of cozy

Basically, and I’ve used these adjectives before, I like to feel “cozy” and “warm” in my writing space, which is interesting because I don’t normally wear warm colors; I tend to wear bright, cooling colors like fuchsia, electric pink, aquamarine, daffodil yellow, and grass green.

When I was a graduate student, I was so excited to get my first job and have money to rent a place with a home office. I wanted to make it my own, so I bought art that really inspired me, and a bold red desk from Ikea that was speaking to me, and I planned how to design the space in a way that would make me productive, motivated, and happy. I did all of that when I got my first place after graduation, and I found that I didn’t want to be in that space. I’ll blame it partially on my cat, Alice, who always wanted to sit on my lap (I cannot work with a cat on my lap—sorry Alice!); I’ll also blame it on the small window without much light and the brown carpet. Despite all my best efforts, the room didn't feel cozy. It felt small, dark, and confining. 

But, the same thing happened with my work office, too, and then I began wondering if (a) writing my dissertation in a coffee shop meant that I had trained myself to work in a coffee shop and would now need to untrain myself, (b) I didn’t actually know how to create an inspired, happy space, and/or (c) I was too overly stimulated with a new job, new state, and new colleagues that I couldn’t sit in peace and quiet in my home and work offices. Maybe I needed some kind of distraction, which coffee shops do provide.

And I don't have answers to why my home and work offices weren't productive, happy, cozy places for me. What I do know is that I would really like to figure out how to cultivate such a space. And I also know that I want a daffodil yellow wall. A big, daffodil yellow wall. I don’t want a daffodil yellow painting or a daffodil yellow frame or a daffodil yellow pillow. I want a wall. (Which is probably not possible in my department office.)

So, what to do, what to do? Basically, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I want to hear about your experiences learning what colors, textures, temperatures, light, etc., make you happy, productive, and motivated. Do show and tell—take some pictures and tag me, @GeneseaC. Because I need all the help I can get.