Spark your Creative Genius on the Way to Work Tomorrow
My morning commute takes about thirty minutes. It is often the most productive part of my day.
In the sanctuary of my car I’ve solved a lot of problems and formed many creative solutions. I’ve resolved complex programming issues, untangled emotional knots, received flashes of inspiration and let my imagination run free. I learned how the hard way.
* * *
I had been working free-lance jobs in California. One lonely winter when twinkle-lights appeared on palm trees, I longed for family, the girl I loved and an Ohio Christmas. My old motorcycle would never make it across the country and I wouldn’t survive the ride in winter. I resigned myself to a California Christmas.
Then the mafia solved my problem.
A coworker got into gambling trouble and needed money fast. He offered to sell his ‘72 Mustang. For an older car, the mustang was solid. He settled for $800 cash.
It was December 22, if I was going to make Cleveland by Christmas Eve, I had to drive non-stop. Snowstorms blasted the northern part of the country so I pointed the old muscle car south to Albuquerque and settled into the long drive. An hour later, I discovered the radio didn’t work. The drive would be longer than I thought.
I made Dallas, stopping only for coffee and gas, but part way through Arkansas I hit the wall. I was exhausted, nodding off dangerously, my mind a gray, soupy cloud. Just after dark I pulled over and walked in an open field beside the highway.
I had to focus and stimulate my hazy mind.
Back on the road, I began a deliberate, series of experiments.
I imagined characters, painting intricate details and passionately explaining each to a phantom audience. I imagined a resurrected Benjamin Franking riding shotgun and asking questions. I spent hours explaining technology, culture and world events. I asked and answered difficult questions as deeply and broadly as I could. Through the night a few things became apparent.
Driving is unique for several reasons.
- The rhythmic, autonomic process of driving can establish a near meditative state.
- As part of your mind is occupied with driving, the rest is free to roam.
- The car is a psychological sanctuary unbounded by social restraint.
Drives are perfect for creativity and problem solving.
Eventually I developed a reliable technique for putting my drive time to use, one question at a time.
The Question Technique
Start the night before. Prime your subconscious with a question you want to explore the next morning. Ask and consider the question as you fall asleep. This gives you the benefit of hours of sub-conscious consideration. This leads to more fruitful consideration the following morning.
Turn your radio off and eliminate distractions.
As you drive, explore answers to your question. Answer the question from different perspectives or as different people with different outlooks.
Let the answers roll through your mind and off your tongue. Don’t hold back. Nothing is right or wrong and no one is watching, just let the answers flow.
At the end of your drive review your answers, repeating the highlights to yourself. If satisfied with your answers move to the next question. If not, you can repeat the process until you feel you’ve exhausted the topic.
Time on the road can be an amazing source of creativity. Imagination, like muscle, grows with exercise. With a little practice in your rolling gym, you’ll be amazed at the growing strength of your imagination.
* * *
I made it home Christmas Eve, driving through a few hallucinations in KY. I had been awake for almost 60 hours and had driven 2,700 miles. Surprising everyone, I stumbled into my parent’s home to hugs and kisses. After a long shower, I fell asleep until Christmas Morning.
It was snowing – just like I imagined.