The other night I showed up at the door of a workshop I’m taking and as I waited for my teacher to answer our knock, I peeked in through the window. I saw eight black chairs in a circle, each one with an identical clipboard with handouts and a pen. The chairs surrounded a table laid with cut up vegetables, cheese and salami slices. More bowls of enticing snacks surrounded a bouquet of many bottles of drinks.
“Wow! Way to feel welcome,” I said to the friend I’d arrived with.
Showing up for a new experience is often fraught for me. Will I like the teacher? Will this be as good as I hope it will be? But after peeking in the window and seeing how my teacher had prepared the space, I felt a wave of warm welcome and my concerns melted away before I'd even taken my seat.
This experience reminded me how important it is to welcome your students, audience and even your artist self to the work day. A welcome can make all the difference.
For example, when an artist arrives at my door for coaching, my main table is clear except for a blank pad of paper and a pen. I let her face the expansive view of Portland and I face her, so the artist has my complete, undivided attention. By the time she sits down, I hope this setting makes her feel that for the next hour, all that matters is her creative pursuit.
When I write, I open with a scene or a moment or a line of dialogue that will entice my reader to keep walking into my story. I want them to feel: Don’t worry, it will be OK. You’re in good hands. I lay out the goodies so my reader won’t want to go home.
How can you take this idea of welcome and apply it to your creative life this week? Is your studio set up in a way that welcomes you when you arrive? Do you smile when you first glimpse your workspace? Or has your desk become a dusty storage shelf and are the dirty dishes still piled by the door?
Try this: the next time you leave your workspace for the day, set it up for the next day’s creative work. What would entice you? What would make you smile? A vase of flowers? A clean desk? A canvas already prepped on the easel? Do that. And see what happens when the door opens and you walk in tomorrow. The welcome may make all the difference.
Still Life With Bottle, Jug And Fruit by Ilya Mashkov, 1910