Spacing Out on Creativity Part One: Doing More On the Go
S01E02a: Making a More Portable Workspace to Make More
👋 Hello, createors*!
This three-part series will touch on the three dimensions of creative space: the physical, the mental, and the personal.
🙌 Our physical workspace dictates what we can do and how we act.
📘 Our mental headspace informs and translates those actions into connections with our knowledge and our work.
💗 And our personal inner-space is the prism or voice through which all things are expressed.
Today we begin with the physical act of creation, what’s needed to build momentum, and the importance of having your tools within arms reach. Creating a make-away bag and making the smallest commitment to ‘do more’ will result in untold creative benefits in the not-so-distant future. Let’s get into it!
+ Part One: Making a More Portable Workspace to Make More 🙌
When people talk about their creative spaces, they are often talking about the physical: their studies and studios, their desktops and set-ups. These are (usually) areas that are under some control. They can be quarantined and cordoned off, locked behind a door, or built in a corner like an off-limit shrine. Workspaces can be sprawling and cluttered, or neat and tiny. There is no one truth to a creative set-up, as it is often cobbled together over time, or built urgently out of necessity. But they all have one thing in common: a space to work. Regardless of its effectiveness or optimization, regardless of the upgrades needed or the proximity of competing purposes, this space is reserved (or taken) for making. It might be a chair, it might be a garage, it might be a room, it might be a warehouse; but it’s a workspace and it’s yours.
✅ too due
But what about the times when you cannot be in your space, when you have errands to run, jobs to do, or people to see? What about the sub-optimal conditions, the liminal spaces, the time between time? Just like it’s not always sunny and 22℃ (72℉), you don’t always have a perfect studio workshop filled with the right equipment and supplies and an infinite amount of time to get everything done. Too often you’re out and about, living in the world, check-marking our way down a “too due” list of Sisyphean tasks competing to land the killing blow on what’s left of your free spirit.
You might be relieved to know that creation rarely happens under optimal conditions. (Even the big bang, the creation of our entire universe, theoretically arose from conditions of chaos.) These imperfect moments are when you need to dig deep into your make-away bag and employ the Creative Wedge.
🎒 the make-away bag
What is the single most important part about the act of creation? The act! Without the creative act, there is no creation at all. And to unlock your creative potential, and build up momentum, purpose, energy, and the joy of making stuff, you need to make sure that you can make things whenever and wherever you are.
And for this you need a make-away bag—something to assist with your creative pursuits on-the-go. Think of it as an MVP studio: minimal, vital, and portable. It’s something you always have with you and within reach, that provides you with just enough to capture a thought, a feeling, an idea, a colour, an emotion, a taste, a tone, a tune… you get the idea.
Capturing is crucial because of how our brain works. The way we process and store creative ideas is very similar to dreams. They are not usually anchored by our day-to-day obligations, and are quickly muscled out of the way by more powerful thoughts and needs, receding into the background before vanishing altogether.
When something comes to you, grab it!
🏗️ building your make-away bag
Ask yourself these questions when building your make-away bag, and you should be well on your way to an MVP (minimal, vital, portable) studio:
What never fails to motivate you?
It might be a dog-eared book, a photograph, a tool, or a toy. If it fits in your hand, you can pack it in your make-away bag. For years I used to carry a smooth, black rock that I picked out of the Pacific Ocean. Not only did it feel beautiful in my hand, it also reminded me that persistent action will eventually smooth out the rough edges. Currently, I have a small CMY Cube, which reminds me that the most complicated ideas come from simple combinations.
What are the most essential and versatile (and durable) tools needed to make my creative work happen on-the-go?
Most of my work is about ideas, so the absolute minimum I need to capture creativity on the move is a Moleskine notebook, and a felt-tip ink pen (along with a spare).
I prefer a light dot-grid-patterned paper, which is optimal for writing or sketching. I also like to have three bright neon highlighters (yellow, cyan, magenta) which I use to organize my thoughts (around more, better, and different respectively).
If I was a sculptor, I might carry a small canister of Fimo clay. If I was a musician, I might carry a harmonica, a USB keyboard, or a ukulele. If I was a costume designer, I might carry a scrapbook of fabric swatches. If I was a painter, I might have a small watercolour set with postcard-sized paper, and a full water bottle. The point is to bring just enough to let you play when you need to play, and work when you need to work.
What can be digitized to minimize physical tools? Legend has it that landscape photographer Ansel Adams believed the best camera is the one you have with you (that’s the quote I appropriated for the opening image). The continued evolution of the smartphone has compressed the camera, video camera, measuring tape, light meter, tape recorder, tuner, and a thousand other things, into one compact digital super-computer. If you have a creative tool that doubles as an app, you’ve already simplified your make-away gear.
What ensures my digital tools keep running? Everything digital needs a power source, so make sure your make-away bag has a full battery charger and the right cables to keep you going for the extra hours you may need.
What can be organized for the most efficient retrieval?
When the muse visits, the last thing you want to do is dig through a bottomless purse or satchel (or screen) for the tool you need.
Organize all of your digital tools into a cluster and put them on your home screen for quick and easy access.
If you have a newer iPhone, you can use the Back Tap Accessibility action to build customized shortcuts. For example, if I double-tap the back of my phone, it will capture voice-to-text right into a specified note.
I also use Grid-It! organizers, which are stiff boards with non-slip elastic bands, to keep everything instantly accessible and in its rightful place.
What’s my integration strategy? How will your work done in the make-away studio be integrated into your projects when you return to your permanent workspace? Will you take photos of it, type up manual summaries, or file them in a box? Make sure that you catalogue your mobile creations and ideas for future access.
What’s in (or should be in) your make-away bag, and why? Let us know in the chat (or in the comments). The more ideas we share, the better.
🧀 The Creative Wedge
The Creative Wedge is a ridiculously simple (yet powerful!) concept. Commit to spending a tiny, fractional amount of time pursuing creativity every day, no matter what. It can be one minute, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it. And a make-away bag makes it even easier because you’ll always have your gear within reach.
Incorporating small, consistent creative habits into your daily life, without sacrificing or pressuring the other things you currently need to do, will gradually develop into a positive habit. This approach allows you to capitalize on those fleeting moments of downtime in your day-to-day routine, transforming them into opportunities for self-expression and personal growth.
The Creative Wedge is not about making grand, sweeping changes overnight— rather, it's about starting a small no-pressure habit and letting the momentum of consistent creative action slowly snowball. As you continue to integrate these creative habits into your life, you'll find yourself more engaged and invested in your own work, naturally gravitating away from mindless mobile games and endless TikTok distractions.
By starting with a thin edge of the wedge, you can gradually expand your creative time, allowing those initial one-minute sessions to naturally evolve into ten, twenty, and even sixty-minute sessions. With a make-away bag in hand, you can transform moments of downtime into rewarding creative opportunities, fostering a proactive mindset that values creation over passive consumption. The Creative Wedge is the key to unlocking a life where creativity becomes integral to your daily routine.
👟 Just do it
Ultimately, it's vital to recognize that creativity thrives not only within the confines of a traditional workspace but in the unexpected moments and places you encounter throughout your daily life. By equipping yourself with a make-away bag tailored to our unique creative needs, you can capture your fleeting muse no matter where you are and how much time you have. Harnessing the incredible low-stakes power of the Creative Wedge will keep your creative muscles moving and your experience and motivation steadily increasing.
⏭️ Coming up next…
In Part Two, Headspace, we’ll explore modes over moods—how to cultivate a creative mindset connected to what you intend to accomplish.
*createors — a term of endearment for all human beings who want to make their mark on the world by finding the commitment to make things, the curiosity to learn what they can, and the courage to express themselves. It is a portmanteau of ‘creator’ and ‘meteor’. It is also a nickname given to followers of the creed, “Create or Be Created!”
🤑 While I may earn a small affiliate fee for some of the links in this newsletter, none of the products or services mentioned are paid advertisements and were hand-picked independently by me, Jason Theodor.