Over the last week, my wife (who also gets all the photo credit) and I had the opportunity to travel to the UK and spend time in the Lake District and near Manchester. It was a fantastic trip with lots of beautiful scenery and fascinating sites of historical interest. Despite the jet lag I am experiencing while writing this (must stay up for 4 more hours, must stay up for 4 more hours, must stay up…), I can say that the whole experience was refreshing and left me feeling energized to work on my projects when I returned home. Having looked back on the trip a bit, I thought I’d write about some of the creative thoughts that were sparked by my experiences.
Exposure to New Surroundings Fills Your Creative Bank Account
My wife and I often reference the idea of a “creative bank account,” a concept introduced to us in this video. Creativity is all about remixing the inspirations that you have built up (consciously or unconsciously), and one of the best ways to be more creative is to add new inspirations into the mix. Before this trip, I had never spent any time outside of the U.S. Having the opportunity to travel to a completely different part of the world not only allowed me to see things that I had never seen before, but also sparked lines of thought that I would have never explored otherwise. However, changing your setting to help expand your creative resources does not require a trip halfway around the world. Even looking for small opportunities to experience new things and get a change of perspective can make an unexpected impact in shaping your own unique creative footprint.
A Lot of Creative People Have Come and Gone
One thing that is notably different in the UK (compared to what I am accustomed to), is the abundance of old churches with adjoined graveyards. In Grasmere, we were able to visit the grave of William Wordsworth, the famous English poet. There was something very real about standing over a grave and thinking about how that person used to be alive and working on their own creative endeavors. The first obvious effect of these kinds of thoughts is the realization of just how limited our time is in this life. Perhaps that is a depressing thought to some, but it is also a good reminder to follow your passions and make the most of the time you have. The second line of thought that these graveyards elicited was around keeping priorities straight. The creative life is one that is full of passion and perseverance, but at the end of the day, there are a lot of things in life that are more important than creative projects. Everything is a balance, and having the right priorities while simultaneously pushing towards your creative goals is key to a fulfilling creative life.
Technology has Transformed How We Learn
While in Manchester, we toured Chetham’s Library at Chetham’s School of Music. The Library is filled with books that are more than 150 years old, and is the oldest free public reference library in the UK. It really got me thinking about how different the learning process was centuries ago. Users of the library would need to make a reservation for a particular book, and then do all of their reading in the library as the books were not allowed to leave. In fact, for a long period of time, most of the books were chained to the bookcases to ensure they weren’t taken. Nowadays, the Internet has made knowledge on every subject just a few clicks away. Even acquiring a specific physical book is an easy task; buying your own copy can be just two days of Amazon Prime shipping away. It is really interesting how having easier access to these resources most often does not translate to more effective and intentional learning. It reminds me of how having less time to work on something can often be more productive than having a large block of time available. Less friction is pointless if you never get the ball rolling. It is definitely something to be aware of, to not take for granted how spoiled we are compared to students of the past (and by students, I mean anyone working to learn anything, which should be everyone).
There Are a Lot of People in the World
This may seem like an odd thing to dwell on, but it kept coming to mind throughout our trip. We went to the airport and there were thousands of people there. We visited Edinburgh in Scotland and there were thousands of people there. All the while I kept thinking: every day, these locations contain thousands of people whether I am there or not. And there are thousands of other airports and cities for which the same is true. For some reason this obvious observation seemed to dawn on me more as we travelled from location to location. Now there are a lot of resulting thoughts that can stem from an awareness of the volume of people in existence, but thinking specifically from the perspective of a creative person, here are a few that came to my mind. First, I was reminded that no matter what your creative interests and tastes are, there are going to be people that exist that share that interest. I am reminded of the essay by Kevin Kelly on having 1000 true fans. You don’t have to create things that the entirety of humanity will approve of. Create what you want to create and work to find and connect with those people that are tuned into that same wavelength. Secondly, I think it is a good reminder not to take yourself so seriously. It is so easy to think what you are doing is so important or to have fears about what other people think. At the end of the day, 99.999% of all humans alive today don’t, and never will, care about anything you are doing creatively. Everyone has enough problems of their own and is too distracted mistakenly thinking they are so important to care about what you are trying. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes.
This post is a bit of a mishmash of thoughts, but that is kind of what I aimed for it to be. The past week was filled with some great life experiences, and with those experiences came a lot of reflections on life, history, and the world we live in. Do I have any specific creative projects that are stemming from my inspirations on the trip? Not really, honestly. But everything that a creative person produces is constructed through the filter of their own unique life experiences, and this vacation has certainly further refined the lens through which I will continue to create.