Leaving the Studio Ready to Go

One of the tricks I teach my creativity coaching clients is to leave your studio ready to continue work. Yes, I actually suggest you don’t clean up and leave it neat and tidy.


Tom Humber’s studio, ready to work.

A tidy studio with everything put away requires work before you start your real work. You have to gather supplies, plan your project, find the parts you need. During all that time, you can find excellent excuses for things that have to be done first. (See yesterday, under “dust bunnies.”)

Here’s how you leave your studio: as if you were coming back in a few minutes.

Yes, you rinse your brushes or secure the needle and thread. Of course you save the file and remember where you left it. But stopping before you are done leaves the door open to yearning for more.


  • Leave something open and ready to be worked on
  • Leave your tools ready to pick up and get back to work
  • Leave yourself a note of what work you want to start
  • Write something encouraging about your work and leave it where you can see it
  • Turn on a light so when you pass the studio in the evening, it will look inviting


  • Leave a long list of what needs to be done to make your work perfect
  • Write a list of everything you dislike about this piece, so you can “fix” it when you come back into the studio.
  • Pile up supplies to be put away before you start
  • Leave old coffee cups and plates in the studio, that encourages you to pick up the dishes and leave and maybe not come back

Whatever you leave out, create an atmosphere of wanting to return, something that will welcome you. That way, when you perform your ritual, something will be calling you to the studio.

Two other articles in this series: Create a Studio-Ritual to Jump-Start Creative Work and Rationalizing Yourself out of Studio Time (with Dust Bunnies).

–Quinn McDonald has overcome studio fear several times.

Studio photo: http://tomhumber.blogspot.com


18 thoughts on “Leaving the Studio Ready to Go

  1. At work, on my desk, the first task for the next day was always there ready to be started . . . come in, sit down and start. Why should a studio be any different? My studio is my living room so creative work can be an ‘any-time’ thing and if friends or family arrive? I just scoot things aside . . . not away. I think the only time I clean up completely is when I’ve had enough of something and prior to going on some other creative adventure.

    The living room is an apt name.

    • Doing the same at work is brilliant. I used to do that, too, and not open emails until I had accomplished something. And for you, the living room is every room in your house.

  2. Wonderful! Now I don’t feel so bad—I don’t have a studio—I have a one bedroom apartment. There IS a combined livingroom/dining room area, and in the tiny dining area (which I have named The Beastro), I have my little antique barrel table which is currently piled up with all my tins and boxes of collaging materials, stamps from around the world, scissors and glue sticks, various supplies and all manner of ephemera and found treasures…there’s not a whole lot of dining going on at The Beastro, presently, but I’m more concerned with keeping my cats out of my work. I’d been saying to myself lately, that I need to get all that cleaned up and put away until the next time I’m ready to work, but do I really? Cleaned up for whom? I’ve been finding that when inspiration strikes, or i want to finish what I’ve been in the middle of, I simply sit down…I’ve been working on more, more often! Much easier when I want to write, to grab a pen and my hodgepodge book to work on poetry and haiku, but for collaging I have alot of stuff i’d have to pull out and might very well be less inclined…also, it is very very true, as you say, to just intend to carry out a couple dishes (or beer bottles) and then get
    sidetracked! Until I find a way to better organize my stuff, while keeping it close at hand, it serves me well to keep it set up and ready to work—neat, clean,& “cat-proofed” (Ha!)

      • Lol, yes, it is a Commonplace journal—I just like the name better—nothing commonplace about my life and hodgepodge sounds silly and cute like messy little hedgehogs. It’s just a good place to scribble down words I like and want to use, a line that comes to me, do syllable counts, a title I want to steal….

  3. Definitely voting yes! Having limited space and two cats makes it difficult sometimes, but I always have things ready to go for at least 1-2 projects

  4. A well-known writer (unfortunately not well-known enough for me to remember who it is) supposedly stopped every writing session in the middle of a sentence.

    • It’s been attributed to Hemmingway (hasn’t every writing tip?). He did suggest this in an article on writing: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck … That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”

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