How a Road Trip Is the Perfect Creative Boost

Maybe it’s just me, but this winter seemed to last a year, and spring can’t get here fast enough. Now that we only have a week until it officially arrives, I’m thinking about what we can do with the longer, warmer days. (Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about creativity.)

sunbeam roadSpring is about new growth and emergence, sure, but it’s also the time to shake things up. Cut loose. Bust yourself out of winter’s cocoon and take to the air.

Or, if you’re like me, the road. Not that I’d encourage anyone to leave Taos but, as long as you promise to come back, let’s talk about the benefits of a change of scenery.

For example. I’m writing to you from Hazen, Arkansas, and though this tiny town might not seem like inspiration central, the journey here (with more to come) has given me lots of ideas for my work.

I’m guessing you know what I mean. Even going to Santa Fe for a Trader Joe’s run can generate a spark. There’s something about the act of traveling down the road (by car, bike, train) that brings clarity and creative thought like nothing else.

There’s obviously value in seeking out physical beauty (parks or museums, for example), and also allowing yourself to experience something new (such as skate parks or barbed-wire museums). But there’s also the nothingness of wide-open spaces, the miles and miles of sky and asphalt, that free your thoughts and generate new possibilities.

You don’t need to go on some epic multi-state adventure to get those results. Spend the night at Ojo Caliente, and let the minerals do their work on you. Or leave Taos at dawn and see where you end up by lunch, then turn around and come back a different way.

The beautiful thing about travel is it knocks you out of your rut. (To clarify: rut is bad, routine is not. I’m a big fan of routine, and especially for creative types, some level of sameness every day can be a comfort and give shape to the wild unpredictability of the creative life.)

If you go farther than the end of the block, you meet different kinds of people, eat different kinds of food, and see a different way of living. None of which you may even like, but still, it’s important to remember that there’s another experience going on out there, and if you’re lucky, some of that will rub off and nudge (shove?) your work into a new, interesting realm.

Plus, who can deny that the words spring and road trip are meant for each other? Or that motion (by whatever means) puts your brain on a certain kind of autopilot so you can drift off into creative zones you don’t access at home?

Even though I’ve given you no excuse for getting out of town for at least a day, maybe you feel like you can’t. I respect that. There are plenty of other ways to break the rut and free your creative mind, and the key is challenging yourself with something new. Take something you already like to do but give it a twist:

Listening to music. You’re a bluegrass junkie? Try something by The Clash or Tchaikovsky. Force yourself to listen to the whole thing. Ask yourself what’s interesting about it. Or, if you hate it, pull apart the why. Sometimes the things that push our buttons are even more worthy of our attention than what we like.

Reading. If you only read literary novels, try a crime thriller. Or “Fifty Shades of Gray”. Same drill – get through the whole thing then ask yourself the questions as above. If you’re a writer, think about this: if the book was a best seller, is there anything you could learn from it and apply to your work? (Bondage seems like a safe bet.)

Physical activity. You ski. Of course. I dare you to put your other boots on and head to the Sagebrush for a night of two-stepping. Bring a friend who knows how, or spot a talented stranger and ask for a dance. I guarantee they’ll give you a whirl, and even be nice when you step on their toes. Notice how the new activity not only works different muscles, but also different parts of your brain. (As in, trying to make sense of “quick, quick, slow”.)

Whether it’s a literal change of scenery or something closer to home, take advantage of the changing season to shake up your art and life. Now is the time.

Do you have any travel plans coming up, or other fun plans or experiments? I’d love to hear about them.

This column first appeared in The Taos News. Photo credit:

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  1. Thanks for the good ideas. I have begun to tentatively stick my toes into new waters. I AM a traveler – love it more than anything else. But I have been in a rut now for many years – traveling but mostly to the same places.
    A few years ago I decided to drive to KY from AZ via New Orleans. Then the oil spill happened and I thought, oh, well, there goes the New Orleans idea. Moments later I realized that this was exactly when I HAD to go. And I did. What a powerful, powerful experience. I wrote about it, spoke about it, helped in ways I never knew I could.
    Thank you for reminding me, Deonne, to jump on back outta here!
    Emilie Vardaman recently posted..Bisbee Pride

    • Emilie,

      I love your New Orleans story! Beautiful. I’ve been thinking about how I can be of more service, and I’m not sure if it’ll be teaching, or working with a nonprofit, or, like you did, traveling somewhere to help where I’m needed. You’ve inspired me to keep the ideas on a front burner, so thank you.


  2. I love going on road trips! I get really tired from driving but at the same time it helps me get my mind away from work and other stressful things.
    Suki F recently posted..Top 3 markets to visit in London

    • Suki – Yes! There’s something freeing about it in body and mind. I hope you get to go on one sooner than later.

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