Eliminating everything does not spontaneous genius make

For the last two weeks I’ve been on vacation.

The first nine days of that vacation were spent in almost complete solitude. Other than one evening sitting around a campfire with my Airbnb hosts the only interaction I had with people during those nine days was whatever the bare minimum had to be to successfully complete a couple grocery shopping trips and a few evening restaurant meals. My goal was to put myself into as slow and silent an environment as possible and see what might happen when my brain had a chance to unclench and relax.

Part of me hoped that after two or maybe three days of psychically and emotionally detoxxing in my low-stimulus environment I would magically be inundated with great ideas. In my fantasy I would wake up early and sip my tea as I slowly walked around my rural property and thought the thoughts that would make me admired among my colleagues and beloved by my clients. I would sit in front of a fire (my fantasy didn’t really register that it was July) and write big thoughts by hand in an expensive notebook with an expensive pen. Either the beginnings of a novel or a non-fiction tome that would rock the discipline of organization design to its core.

As I said, this definitely ended up being a fantasy.

Reality was quite different. I still got up early but even though I was successful in quieting my mind and shifting out of my normal routine I didn’t find myself drawn to my open notebook for hours every day (regardless of how strategically I left it open and ready to go).

The first twinges of despair started to wind their way into my mind after the fifth or sixth day where my notebook remained mostly bare. And then, in a split second, for some unknown reason, I saw the situation differently and more compassionately.

It turns out that eliminating nearly everything out of my life that could’ve feasibly been a distraction (work commitments, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, news of all kinds… hell, basically all people) isn’t the secret to having great ideas. Eliminating everything does not allow for the spontaneous generation of incredible ideas. I actually take an extreme amount of solace in this. Not that won’t continue to experiment with solitude and focus and sheparding my attention — but that I don’t require these conditions to have ideas.

Maybe this is my brain trying to protect itself from walking down the path of feeling like my vacation was wasted because I didn’t have some kind of eureka moment? Or maybe there’s something positive to be said for knowing that the hard work of being creative takes more than taking a humongous eraser to my normal routine? Or maybe the nearly week and a half of solitude has helped plant some seeds for better writing and thinking in the near future?

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