Stimulating Creativity

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Writing calls on us to find that gold vein of creativity, which is a wondrous experience. Yet one of the toughest aspects of writing is that it requires so much creativity–book idea, hook that communicates quickly and intriguingly, format, word choice, etc.

Writing melds blessing and bane inextricably together.

One way to stimulate creativity, to kick it into gear, to get you cruising “in the zone” is to travel to a new place–or to take a deeper look at a familiar place, seeing it anew.

Tony Hiss’s book, In Motion: The Experience of Travel. Hiss likes to write about travel–not travel guides to Europe or to Africa but more about how travel sets our minds in motion.  “Putting our bodies in motion puts our minds in motion. But in what ways?” he asks.

Travel Deep to See Anew

He coined the term “Deep Travel” to explain how travel affects our insights. Deep Travel uses all our senses to take in everything at once. “It’s this remarkable ability that gives us a different perspective, a wide-angle, wide-awake awareness,” Hiss explains.

Travel wakes us up; we see things vividly. In strange places, we have a heightened awareness.Stimulating creativity, Oxford, Victoria and Albert Museum, Deep Travel, day dreaming, focused attention, aids to creativity, travel

I recall decades ago the first time I saw the town of Oxford. The train chugged over a hill and there, laying splendidly before us, were buildings all constructed of the same ancient golden stone.

The sun shone down on the city in a glorious, revelatory sort of way that made me think of it as a sort of New Jerusalem. It seemed a heavenly place not because of the employment of brilliant color but instead because of the soft gold that soothed in its beauty.

Now, to the resident of Oxford, riding the train from London is unlikely to stimulate any heavenly thoughts unless the person is weary and oh-so eager to slip on home. That person isn’t likely to even look out the train’s window.

How We Experience the World Can Lead to Creativity

Hiss posits we all have three ways of experiencing the world:

  • daydreaming, when we’re free-associating;
  • focused attention, when we are concentrating on something;
  • and Deep Travel.

School moves us away from daydreaming to focused attention. But Deep Travel isn’t even acknowledged as a way of seeing things.

When we’re in an unfamiliar setting, whether that be a foreign country or parking our car on an unknown street, Deep Travel kicks in. We have to notice everything around us to move forward. Cruise control is turned off; we’re “driving” manually.

Hiss describes Deep Travel as observing “in between” places rather than observing all the obvious aspects of a locale. It calls us to wake up to our surroundings. When we do, our creativity kicks in.

Having just returned from a trip to England, I can show you hundreds (yes, hundreds) Stimulating creativity, Oxford, Victoria and Albert Museum, Deep Travel, day dreaming, focused attention, aids to creativity, travelof photos I took when something struck me as beautiful or curious.

Many of the shots would have surprised a Brit. Sheep dotting an emerald hillside; a front door surrounded by blooming, potted plants; or, as you’ll see here, a staircase in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I suspect hundreds, if not thousands, of people walk down that staircase on a given day but see only a conveyance to another floor of the museum. But I was in a Deep Travel zone, alert for the new, lovely, or quirky.

When did you experience Deep Travel? How could we use Deep Travel in situations we generally feel we need to endure, such as airplane flights or running errands around town? How could such awareness cause you to see your WIP in a new way?


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15 Responses

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  1. I have images tucked in my memory that are clear as true life, one-of-a-kind moments that surely were gifts from God’s hand to my heart: a hundred tiny rainbows dancing in the clouds floating below a scenic overlook; a morning hike in the park with a frozen drop of water clinging to the tip every holly leaf; the deer stock still in the road, eyes focused on the STOP sign; wet white snow coating all but the edges of every red and yellow maple leaf hanging over the road, sometimes sliding off and landing on my windshield with a gentle plop; the bear at the side of the road with a McDonalds drive-thru bag. No camera, no other witnesses. Deep travel, yes!

  2. Great post, Janet, and when you described the sheep I suddenly had Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” in my head.
    * The closest I ever came to deep travel in the physical sense was my first visit to the Grand Canyon. As a practitioner of deep ecology and an avid follower of such as Edward Abbey, I expected the experience to be transcendent, and it was…but it was also a dead end. The space and the colours and the brightness of the wind were heartachingly beautiful, but they were also empty, and I was fortunate, at that moment, to see a honeymooning couple who barely gave the Canyon a glance, so focused were they on one another. (How did I know they were honeymooning? I asked. That’s what writers DO, right?)
    * And THERE, I think was the beginning of my truly deep journeys…not to the sights and sounds of a perishable world, but pacing the eternal call to love and grace that is continually offered renewal in God’s Holy Heart.
    * Off topic, or maybe not…I’ve tried to write a love poem to Barb(never wrote one before), and was wondering if anyone might care to offer suggestions for improvement?

    Your eyes are the colour of my Kalashnikov’s stock,
    and your hand’s graceful fingers were made
    to feel out the tumblers, to pick any lock
    or hold a fragmentation grenade.

    Your courage, my dear, was there from the start,
    when you first saw me and resisted to run.
    I never thought someone could make dying so fun
    as you count God’s cadence to my heart.

    Ere I met you, love, my heart was in flight,
    but you landed me with a soft kiss,
    and with you by my side, there’s no terror by night
    neither cancer, nor the Zombie Apocalypse.

  3. Angie Arndt says:

    * My husband and I were struggling with an issue before I left for the ACFW conference. On paper the answer was clear, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to act for some reason. It just didn’t feel right and we didn’t know why.
    * One morning during conference worship, the answer came like an “I could’a had a V8” experience. The nagging feeling I had in the back of my mind was the right one, but it wasn’t until I left behind the bills, the laundry, and the rest of my routine life that I could hear my heart’s “why.”
    * Great post, Janet, and I’m so envious of your trip to England!

  4. Lara Hosselton says:

    I wonder if Deep Travel moments could include those experienced on a spiritual journey while in prayer?

    • I believe it can. Some of my favorite experiences are those late-night conversations that become early morning conversations that grow deeper and more profound as the night presses forward. These conversations can be with a spouse, a friend, God, maybe even the cat. But they take us on journeys!

  5. Such experiences are common if you look for them. I occasionally tell my beloved wife, Alean, “We are so fortunate to LIVE in a place that others fly and drive thousands of miles just to visit. It is our back yard.”
    Deep travel can happen as I hold my seven-week-old granddaughter on my lap and watch her eyes as she explores her fascinating new world, not to mention the hairy face looking down at her.
    It can happen as we walk the Willette Farm in search of the perfect pumpkin, and see one baby goat playfully ram another one in the butt as they chase each other.
    Deep travel happens as we venture bravely into the corn maze for the first time.
    Deep travel is in play as we sit with a glass of fine wine, deep in conversation while watching the Sun kiss us goodnight behind Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands.
    It is everywhere. We just have to open our eyes and minds to it.
    God save us from the familiar.

  6. Deep Travel … that’s just a lovely combination of words. Life is so busy. I have to still myself and focus on one particular thing or scene or idea to travel there, to see things I didn’t see before, to see things worthy of writing about. But it’s hard to get still. It’s hard to focus. So much going on around, so much to do. I have to care and be intentional. I’ll often think, when I need to write something–I’ve got to get alone. *And Instagram has invited me to pay attention to more real life around me, looking for unique angles, unique beautiful. And though I wish it were through my lens, I love seeing other parts of the world through another’s … 🙂

  7. Janet, I smiled when I read you’d taken hundreds of photos of your time in England. I tend to take tons and tons of pictures when I travel . . . and even when I’m in a beautiful place nearby. I’m learning to look for glimpses of God’s beauty, even in the mundane-ness of a day.
    *One time I experienced deep travel was when Hubs and I traveled to San Diego to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I spent seven years there in my twenties, but going back at this age gave me eyes to see things in a new light. I love photography, and capturing sunsets, water lapping onto a sandy shore, a fisherman casting his line backlit by the orange of an evening sky made my heart happy.
    *I can see how deep travel can awaken our senses to feel and experience a fresh locale. Then, we can translate some of those details we capture into our stories, creating more authenticity for our readers.

  8. Elaine Faber says:

    For me, it was the small town of Hopfgarten in Austria where the church had twin towers with bells that rang to ‘drive the storm clouds away!’ The experience triggered two short stories and currently my WIP novel. Cows and sheep on the hillside all wear bells. Mist wafts across the hills. The streets bear the footsteps of thousands who trod the cobbled stones. The memories from 30 years ago still hold me in awe each time I think or write about the experience.