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Inspiration on the Open Road

By Sumit Jagdale

That damn, blinking cursor on a blank document loves to taunt me. An insignificant little line whose sole purpose is to mark the spot where the next character will appear, has the temerity to silently judge me.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

“I got all day buddy, I move when you do.”

You know you’ve been looking at a blank page long enough when you start thinking it’s talking to you. A quick glance at the corner of the screen, I have a week till my deadline. I have time, but I have no ideas. My creative sparks haven’t fizzled, they just want to focus on something else.

Welcome to my world.

I’m not conceited enough to think my problem’s unique, but anyone who claims absolute humility is lying to you. I bet you’re wondering why I haven’t come out told you the purpose of this post yet. I mean, I could have, if I were trying to sell you something. I’d have followed the formula; established my authority on the subject, pointed out specifically what value I’m adding to your life with what I’m writing and put a clear, concise call-to-action toward the end. But here’s the thing. I have nothing to sell. Not yet. Am I conceited enough to think that you’ll still continue reading? Not really, but you’ve come this far, what harm could the next few paragraphs do? You’re probably slacking off work to read this anyway.

I guess I should offer something of value. So, let’s talk about that smug, little, blinking cursor. This isn’t really about a solution to writer’s block. Most of those solutions aren’t really a “one-size-fit-all" but if you really want me to define what the next few paragraphs would be about, let’s talk about where I usually find my inspiration. If you’ve read the headline carefully, you know the short answer to that question. Let’s talk details.

I’m not a chained-to-the-desk kind of guy. I like open spaces, preferably the kind untouched by human hands. Don’t lace up your hiking boots just yet. I can appreciate good architecture just as much as the next person, but I’ve never had the luxury of living in a picturesque city. So, every time I find myself at the mercy of that blinking cursor, I fire up Google Maps instead, and pick a destination to explore. As much as I love to preach spontaneity, there are a few things that you need to consider before you hit the open road.

Time: How far can you wander before you need to be back in “civilization”?

Budget: Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t spend what you don’t have. This is not a post on personal finance, or a post on how to travel cheap. Google your way to those articles.

Define a goal: Do you want to commune with nature or do you want to explore a new city? Do you want to have fascinating conversations with random strangers (Google how to do that safely) or do you want to introspect while walking through an interesting neighborhood? You can’t do it all in the same trip. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you do.

Needless to say, it’s great to go off the grid, but make sure someone always knows where you are. Don’t be an idiot.

By my recollections, I’ve never had a great idea sitting at a desk or in front of a computer. I came up with random taglines while speeding down the interstate in South Dakota. I conceptualized a whole campaign in my head while losing myself in the deserts of New Mexico. Sleeping in the car just so I could watch the sun come up over California inspired me a lot more than waking up in my comfortable bed. I’ve come up with more ideas walking to class in Lincoln than I have sitting in the classroom (don’t tell my professors). This works for me. It might not work for you. I could also talk about finding ideas at the bottom of several cocktail glasses and scribbling on bar napkins in alcohol-induced stupors. But that would be an entirely different post. Drinking and driving isn’t compatible anyway.

So, if the open road beckons, heed its call. Gas up your ride, and just drive.


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