Need to kick-start creativity? Try a change of scenery
I think it’s time I came out of the closet: I am not an enormous nature lover. Never have enjoyed being outside. After all, there are gnats out there, and weather.
For 51 years, my idea of the great outdoors has been the space between front door and car door.
While my sister, Lynn Wylie, has entertained herself exploring caves, jumping from airplanes into kayaks and trekking through Lady Gaga only knows what kind of wilderness, I’ve enjoyed a civilized life. A life involving air conditioning and wine. A life spent studying Lorrie Moore’s sentence structure, Rick Bayless’ ginger margaritas and Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s abs.
So when I asked Lynn what I could get her for her 50th birthday, I was a little surprised that her wish list contained only one item: She wanted me to go hiking with her. And I’m not talking about my traditional use of the word “hiking” — aka exploring the Louvre. She wanted me to tromp around outside in the Utah desert.
What was she thinking?
OK, to be fair, Lynn was suggesting a spa. A very nice spa: Red Mountain Spa, just outside Zion National Park. Plus a lodge near Bryce Canyon situated just yards from the renowned restaurant Hell’s Backbone Grill.
Reader, as it turns out, I LOVE nature! I just don’t want to sleep outside or relieve myself behind a tree. And I do think five-star meals should be part of every vacation experience.
Why didn’t anyone tell me about the pleasures of trekking through postcard settings, breathing the clear desert air on a cool spring morning, seeing the world from the tops of mountains you’ve climbed all by yourself (Lynn calls these particular mountains “rocks,” but still … )? I felt like I was living the lyrics of a John Denver song.
And guess what? Turns out this sort of thing is fabulous for creativity.
Get out of your own backyard
I have long preached the gospel of getting out of your comfort zone when it comes to nurturing creative ideas.
Find inspiration outside your company, industry or geography, I’ve counseled. Otherwise you risk practicing what marketing guru Dan Kennedy calls “creative incest.” Like real incest, he says, the product of creative incest just keeps getting dumber and dumber and dumber with each generation.
Turns out, as it so often does, that the choir I was preaching to should have been me: You can also enhance creativity by trying something new — learning a new language, experiencing a different culture or letting go of the remote and heading for the hills (or rocks).
How can you get out of your office — and out of your comfort zone — to kick-start your own creativity?