In Creative Rut? Hit the Road, Jack.

You know when you're in a rut and you feel like you've hit the bottom of the bucket without a single good idea? Or maybe you feel like you're starting at the bottom of the bucket? It's so frustrating feeling that stuck, especially when you're under a looming deadline. You may think that your ticket out is nowhere to be found, but the truth is, it's in your head. And potentially in your gas tank.

Among those who know me, it's no secret that I love to travel. I love everything about it. From dwarfing scenery to long hours in the car, the adventure of going somewhere new never fails to make me come alive. Except when I'm driving through Nebraska or Kansas. Then I feel like a warrior enduring the pain of bland nothingness as I longingly await the mountainous refuge on the other side. Regardless of where I am, a good road trip reveals apart of me that is often hidden by everyday life.

I recently spent six days camping in Wyoming, followed by five days in Denver for TypeCon. This was not just a vacation; it was work. Disconnecting from the routine, and being immersed in fresh air and mountains is a mental detox. It's a chance to push a mental reset button and make room for new inspiration that is all around me. It's like having a cluttered desk, opening the window and letting a gust of wind clear all the unimportant things away. All that's left is me and where I am.

Being in simple places recharges my creative battery. Venturing to new destinations leads me to think differently about the creative problems waiting for solutions back home. Ty Mattson once said that where you work is intrinsically related to the work you produce. This doesn't exclusively refer to your office decor, but also where your office is located, or what you call an office. Working from a new location is a powerful lubricant for the creative machine. Inspiration is apart of creative work, and pursuing the unfamiliar alters your mindset in a way that primes you for inspiration. Unfamiliar circumstances and surroundings are a Petri dish for breeding unfamiliar ideas, i.e., a flavor of idea you don't normally have. Working in an environment that is new inspires and stimulates new ideas. The effects of changing your work environment show in your work, but more consistently, they show in how you approach your work, and how you think.

Without the change in scenery, the gust of wind to clear the mental desktop, we tend to hoard information. After so long, we have a hard time making room for newness. We get stuck coming up with the same ideas, the same solutions, and the good ideas, at best, become crutches. We can spend hours trying to come up with an idea we've had twenty times over. Sometimes we just need to step away from our work for a time, but other times we need to step — or drive — away from the comforts of home entirely. New environments break the hoarding habit and isolate the things that are important, while the unimportant tends to fall away. We see connections between ideas that we wouldn't otherwise see.

So what exactly does this do for the creative ruts that we can so easily find ourselves in? The bad news is that you're not going to come back from a trip and magically have tons of great new ideas. Your brain has processed things from a new place and recorded your experiences from that new perspective. So, while you may not be brimming with new ideas, you are approaching creative problems from a new angle. Further, you have new experiences to draw on. Even the best ideas can often be short-lived, but the experiences and perspectives you gain from traveling will remain valuable for the entirety of your career.

Inspiration and the creative charge gained from traveling aren't just a matter of getting new ideas. Travel expands the very foundation from which your creativity stems. It deepens and widens the proverbial bucket. So, next time you find yourself in a rut, get in the car and drive. See where you end up, and see what you bring back.