Where Creative Work Thrives

Where do you do your creative work?

Does the beginning, middle, and end of your creative process all occur in the same place?

Who sees your work throughout that process?

Those are the questions that we’re going to explore today as I share with you the four spaces of creative work that one person in particular, Andy J. Pizza, host of the Creative Pep Talk podcast, recommends that you consider.

This addressing of the where of your creative work was the subject of episode number 356, which I encourage you to listen to.

Here I’ll sketch out some of the big ideas from that episode and share how I’m applying them to my creative work: the work that shows up on my YouTube channel in the form of sketched videos, and the work that I do inside of Verbal to Visual where I teach the skill of visual note-taking.

Inner Space

The first creative space, where this whole process gets started, is inner space.

Andy calls this deep space, but I prefer inner because this is where you do the creative work without yet worrying about what other people think.

It’s about giving yourself permission to waste time, to focus on just making a lot, not restricting yourself as far as what comes out, and ignoring the outside world, for now.

Your inner space is where you start the creative process, uninhibited by what the outside world thinks.

Here Andy references the equal odds rule, which states that any individual piece of creative work that gets put out into the world has the same odds of making it big, of spreading far and wide and having a big impact.

The only difference, then, between the creators who make it big and become well known is that they just take a lot more shots. They make more pieces of creative work and put more of that work out into the world.

Since success is a roll of the dice, you’ve just got to keep rolling, and this inner space is where you get that process going, throw die after die, in the relative comfort of your own space, without other people watching.

Only some of what you create in that inner space will make it to the next stage of this process. You pull the best bits into the next space.

But in order for those best bits to be good, and maybe some of them even great, you’ve simply got to make a lot of things within this inner space. That’s why this is the most essential space, worth carving out time for.

As I was listening to this episode and reflecting on this first space, I realized that I didn’t have a great spot for it within my creative workflow. I think I tended to jump too quickly to the next spaces.

So I decided to establish this space at the very beginning of my day, during my first work session.

My inner space is within my home office, sketching out ideas on large poster paper first thing in the morning.

I roll out some fresh poster paper onto my desk and do as much thinking and sketching and writing as I can throughout the course of about an hour, focusing primarily on ideas for future videos as well as upcoming workshops or other community events that occur inside of Verbal to Visual.

I keep this work analog, I haven’t opened email yet, I haven’t let any other voices or demands into my head yet, which for me feels like a good place to start this creative process.

Safe Space

You bring the best parts of you made in that inner space to the next location on this creative journey: safe space.

Here is where you do start to bring in the voices and input of other people.

It’s where you share some of your work to get some feedback, get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t, in a process of sound boarding with peers.

Within the safe space you start to get some feedback on your work, sharing it with peers – folks who have the same taste as you.

The definition of peer here is important: it’s someone who has the same taste as you. Because as Andy mentioned, you don’t want to water down your hot sauce.

If you share this early stage of work with anybody, it’s too likely that some of the most interesting aspects of your work will be stripped away, to the point where the only thing that’s left is the boring middle that tries to appeal to the largest number of people.

But when you focus on sharing your early work with folks that do have the same taste as you, they’ll recognize those things that make your work unique, and they’ll help you amplify that while still refining whatever rough spots still exist.

For me that safe space is inside of Verbal to Visual, a space that I created for visual thinkers, folks that enjoy sketching out ideas and working more visually.

My safe space is inside of Verbal to Visual, where I can connect with other visual thinkers and build sketchnoting resources alongside them.

It’s within that space that I’m able to develop sketchnoting resources alongside real people.

That’s what happens in the weekly workshops that I host and also whenever I’m developing a new course, or even when I just want some feedback on a video that I’m working on.

Verbal to Visual is not just a safe space for me, it’s for anybody who’s developing these skills, who wants to share their latest sketchnotes and get some feedback on how to make them better.

Even these ideas that I’m sketching out now came from a sketchnoting challenge that I recently hosted where we all had the opportunity to sketchnote the same source material – this episode of Creative Pep Talk.

So that’s my safe space, and could also be yours, if you’d like to connect with other visual thinkers.

Give & Take Space

Some of that work that you share within the safe space makes it to the next one, the give and take space.

Here you move your work a little bit more into the light, into a more public space.

The example that Andy shared is comedians who will workshop their latest bits in front of a live audience, where the purpose is to test out the material, ideally in real time and in front of real people.

In the give and take space you start to share your work more publicly as you test out the material.

This is where you get an even better sense of what’s working and what isn’t in a space where you’re no longer amongst just your peers, and you get more of an outside perspective on whatever it is that you’re creating.

I consider my give and take space to be watch parties with my wife. She is the first viewer of videos like the one shared above.

My give and take space is where I share the first draft of a new video with my wife in order to get some outside feedback and identify what needs improving.

Even though my wife is of course familiar with my work, she’s not in the weeds of all of the details of visual note-taking that we explore within Verbal to Visual, so she’s got this outside perspective that I really appreciate, and she’s able to give me feedback on how to make that video better, or even just to say “Yeah, that was good, it’s ready to publish.”

Outer Space

Which brings us to the fourth and final space: outer space.

This is wherever you hit that publish button.

It’s where the final version of your creative work lives, where it leaves your hands and isn’t really in your control anymore.

You let it fly out into the world, then whatever happens, happens.

Lastly we come to outer space, the location where you publish your final work.

At this point you have completed the slow but steady progression from inner space all the way to outer space, knowing that the next day, so long as you’ve got a time and space set up for it, you get to enter that inner space again and start planting the seeds for the next piece of creative work that will make its way through these four spaces, getting a bit refined, a bit improved each step of the way.

As you can probably guess, my outer space is YouTube. Once I publish a new video, it’s out of my hands, and you as the viewer get to decide what sort of impact it has.

I share my final video work on YouTube, while also creating a post like this one to make that work more accessible and easily reviewable.

A Miniature Big Bang

But rather than thinking of this point here as the end of the process, it’s really just a transition.

I kind of like to think of it as its own mini big bang. This is the point where the creative work leaves my universe and enters yours.

The work has condensed its way down into what hopefully is an energetic thing that packs a punch, which then expands into a new universe, a universe that’s not mine anymore but now yours, and whoever else decides to watch the video above or read this blog post and then apply some of these ideas, and maybe go listen to that episode of Creative Pep Talk, or the latest one, which sparks some other idea.

The publishing of your work isn’t the end of it, it’s just the moment when it leaves your hands and starts having a life of its own – a mini big bang of sorts.

So in that way, once the creative work is out of your hands, it starts to have a life of its own and it impacts anyone who comes across it in one way or another.

What I appreciate about this overall framework, the identification of these four spaces, is that it makes it more likely that your creative work will have a positive impact.

It’s no guarantee that every single thing that flows through this process will be a home run, but I think it is a way to consistently make a good work, while giving yourself the opportunity with each roll of the dice for it to be great work.

I want every video that I make here, every workshop or course that I host inside of Verbal to Visual, to be good. And I want some of them to be great.

That’s one of the ideas that Andy brings in towards the end of the episode, the idea that you can’t make great work all of the time, but if you’re a pro you can make good work all of the time. There he was quoting illustrator Christoph Neimann, if my memory serves.

And that’s the goal that I have with my work.

I hope that the sketched videos that I share support you on your creative journey, no matter where it leads!

Having identified these four specific spaces and how my work moves through them will get me closer to that goal.

I hope that you have enjoyed exploring these ideas with me and thinking about the spaces where your creative work lives, where your creative work grows.

A Space for Sketchnoters

If you would like visual note-taking to be a part of that work, then do check out what’s going on inside of Verbal to Visual, where you’ll find courses to get you up and running if this is a new skill to you, plus space for you to share your work and get feedback inside that community platform.

I think you’ll be impressed by the people that you meet there, folks from all over the globe and all sorts of different professions who share the common taste of thinking and working visually.

You can learn more and sign up here.

I wish you luck establishing your own four spaces and taking your creative work through them, and I look forward to sharing more ideas with you next time.

Till then,

-Doug