HomearticleDoes the Mess Cause Creativity, or Does Creativity Cause the Mess?

Recently, I came across this opinion piece in the New York Times about creativity and its potential link to messiness.

It got me thinking: is a person’s creativity caused by a messy environment, or does a person’s innate creativity cause the messy environment? Artist and crafter’s desks may be good examples to look at.

Mess: The Cost of Progress

This is actually pretty mild in terms of personal messes.

On the one hand, it makes perfect sense that someone who happens to enjoy creating art of any kind creates their own variety of messes as they make things.

The provided picture is of part of my desk from a couple of days ago. At that stage, it really wasn’t that bad. It’s gotten worse since then, because I’ve moved on to other projects.

Things tend to get cluttered, because my mind seems to move at light speed as I’m doing any sort of work, a common phenomenon in the neurodiversity community. When I move on, often, I end up forgetting to put away the remnants of my last creation jag.

But, how much does that have to do with my being creative versus simply having too much on my mind to bother cleaning?

Mess as Inspiration
On the other hand, the study the article linked to does bring up interesting points. A messy environment can bring about creative solutions to various questions.

Sometimes, that mess causes just enough alteration in perception to encourage stories, drawings or other works. There’s no question that one’s environment has a powerful influence on their performance of certain tasks, especially if there are sensory issues involved.

While I’m sure there are some artists who keep a neat desk, quite a few don’t. Many may have references for artwork, their supplies, things which inspire them and ideas jotted down for future works. I found a good example on Deviant Art below.

I’m not saying that because you like a clean desk or room, you’re not creative, but I am saying that perhaps having the right kind of clutter helps with the creative process.
Why Not Both?
One the other, other hand, I see no reason why it can’t be both. (Please don’t ask where the third hand came from.)
Generally, the more creativity you’re exposed to, the more creative you’ll be. While nestled comfortably in your cluttered mess, you may find yourself getting into a positive cycle of problem solving and creation.
As you work, the mess around you may change, or get bigger, but it could still serve as inspiration.
That said, there is still some value to being organized. Once it gets to the point of being unable to find anything, which hinders any work you may be doing, it may be time to tidy up.
I suppose the point is, clutter has gotten a bad rap. It’s perfectly fine if you enjoy a clean, open work space. It’s also fine if you prefer to have something interesting to look at as you do your thing. Finally, it’s great if you prefer a mixture of both.
I tend to be in the third camp. I need some sort of organization in order to do what I’d like with my life, but I also need some clutter to draw inspiration from. 
In the end, it’s all good, so long as you can still function.

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