smell

change of place

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Do you ever find yourself in a mental rut?

You’ve been chewing on a problem for a while, much like a cow and her cud, but so far you’ve got nothing to show for it but the bland taste of cud in your mouth. Ew.

You sit down to write and nothing comes. You just can’t figure out the next step for your grand business plan.

Here’s an idea: why not try a new locale?

This article I found (actually, it landed in my work inbox) offers some strong support for changing your environment as a way to stimulate your brain and help you be more productive, whether you’re on the job or working your creative craft.

Here’s a snippet of said article:

Checking off your tasks in a new location is a way to exercise your brain’s neuroplasticity. Essentially, when confronted with new stimuli your brain responds by creating new pathways and mechanisms to accomplish tasks. So what you see as being more efficient in a different location is actually your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain’s ability to think about things in a new way. 

Besides relocating, there are other things you can do as well. Try listening to some classical music or alpha waves. Try activating your olfactory senses with some new spices or going to a fragrant restaurant. In short, shock your mind by giving it something out of the norm.

Just be careful where you put your nose while you’re out on the hunt for some creative stimulation. Not all smells were created equal.

information hound

Yup, that's my goofy pup.

Yup, that's my goofy pup.

My dog is, without a doubt, the most distracted creature on God’s green earth. This may be in part because my dog loves to sniff. Let me rephrase that: she lives to sniff. Everything.
To be honest, it doesn’t even seem healthy how much she likes sniffing. I think it’s her goal in life to sniff every nook, cranny and crevasse on this fair planet. She’s well on her way, but she still has a lot of ground to cover.

One thing I realized about dogs is this: sniffing is a dog’s way of gaining information. I often wonder what sort of information my dog picks up in all her sniffing sniffery. Does she learn something about the other people and animals who have passed by a particular spot? And what good does all this sniffing do for her?

But dogs aren’t the only information hounds around. These days, the hunt for information has become more than a passing trend, it’s an epidemic. Whether we go out looking for it or not, we’re bombarded with tons of targeted information on a daily basis: billboards, tv commercials, radio shows, music, news articles, social media shares, and on and on. It’s a variable sea of info.

Though we don’t invite all of it into our heads, life can sometimes fall into a frantic info hunt. It’s an unusual image, but if we sniffed every time we were hunting down info, we’d probably look even crazier than the dogs. These days, we’ve become obsessed with information to the point where I question just how healthy our endless quest for more it really is. Sure, information can be useful, but how much of it do we actually use? It’s a small percentage in comparison to how much we take in.

I don’t know the exact quote, but I recall reading in one of the Sherlock Holmes books an interesting conversation between the titular detective and his faithful assistant. Watson had just spouted off some random fact (I believe about the moon) and Holmes’ response was that he would be sure to forget it immediately. Watson expressed surprise and Holmes explained how he saw the mind as a steel trap with only so much room in it: whenever something new comes in, something else gets pushed out, so he is careful to guard what goes in.

While I imagine there are more accurate metaphors for our mental capacity, this little section of a story has stuck in my mind. How many useful things have gotten smothered by all the trivial junk I take in? It’s something to ponder.

As creatives, we must guard our minds and the time we spend filling them. Yes, we need our noses to the ground, sniffing out creative trails, but we must be careful about the things which lead us off the scent, away from our own creative game, further from our purpose.

We must be careful, lest we become like the ancient mariner in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, who was surrounded by water but found none of it could quench his thirst. In my own twist on the old poem, we have:

Info, info, everywhere,
Yet no one stops to think.

Sometimes I worry we are headed for a world with so much information, we are in danger of drowning in it. It takes creative focus to learn how to filter all that flotsam into something of use, something which not only floats but actually transports us where we need to go. So let’s take the time necessary to process the information we do have and consider how to use it for creative ends before consuming more of the stuff.

 

Creatively yours,
A.P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, do you ever feel overwhelmed by information? Let us know in the comments below.