Walking your way out of a creative rut

Each of us has our times and situations where we do our best creative thinking. Some come up with epiphanies while sleeping (and usually forget them before the ideas can be put to use.) Some think best while meditating, or while taking a bath. Some even enjoy moments of insight while engaged in activities that are, um, biological (see our earlier entry on bathroom doodles). For me, an escape from my traditional work environment starts my mind working. Often, I will take a digital camera with me while I walk, and take pictures of anything and everything that catches my eye. At the time I take the shots, I try not to think too much about why that image appeals -- I just snap away. Over the course of a one-hour walk, I may take as many as 100 pictures. I call this exercise a "pattern walk", so named because I spend the whole time looking for interesting patterns, textures, colors and such. The images shown here are from a recent stroll.

When I return from my walk, I settle at a computer, load and crop the photos, and arrange them in a way that is pleasing to me. I make my environment free of distractions, and try to open my mind. Then I look closely at each image and consider what it could represent, in a metaphorical, iconic or symbolic sense. Road signs can be equated with directions to follow. I ask myself, "What other roles could this item play?" Even if I cannot come up with a complete concept at that time, I'll throw notes down and come back to them later.

With the pictures above, here are just a few of the very unstructured thoughts that emerged:

Cross traffic sign -- We may be heading in one direction and stalled for a period of time. This does not mean, though, that all action stops. Could we harness the potential and/or energy from other activities and other directions? Are we ready for a change of direction?

Garbage bin -- A garbage can with holes throughout could suggest that an idea we had abandoned could later be reexamined and perhaps "picked" so that we can use it again, perhaps at a better time. Are there ideas that didn't work before that might be more applicable today?

Siren -- Are there logical ways to "broadcast" key messages so that a broader audience can hear the messages more clearly? Are our messages "loud" enough?

Interlocking bricks -- Interlocking elements lend strength to the whole, particularly if an effort is made to make sure the right pieces are positioned together. Are we looking at our strategy in a holistic sense? Are we using one element to strengthen others?

Some of these items may ultimately find their way into one of my maps. Some may never become anything at all. The exercise, though, keeps the eyes exploring and the mind working. Take a look at the pictures. What thoughts come to mind for you?


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