The bustling city of San Francisco is a sight to behold. I spend most of my weekends wandering from quirky neighbourhood to quirky neighbourhood, taking in the new atmosphere. A couple of weeks ago it was time for a change.
One of the first things I learned at design school was the importance of being able to step away from your work. Sounds like a winner in Truism Bingo, but was actually more difficult than it might seem for me. When work stops feeling like work, ideas follow you home. I tend to immerse myself with every possible piece of information related to the current project. I’d read the books. I’d watch the movies. I’d listen to the podcasts. All in the hope that – eventually – inspiration will come of it. But will it?
Inspiration is a weird beast. Stepping away from work helps to reset, to relax and make room for new directions. Writers have long explored this. Essentially, locking themselves away from the world. Minimising all distractions. It’s almost as if the creative process begets a moment of utter boredom. And studies have shown that our idle brains are more than a source of pointless pain.
The coastal flanks of the Californian coast might provide a perfect retreat for precisely that. On a recent trip to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park just a couple of hours south of San Francisco we found ourselves in a quaint lodge. The kind of place that charges $5 for an Internet connection. It’s strange how much that place reminded me of Abisko National Park nearly 8000 km away in the Subarctic. It’s where we travelled to for our last project at UID. The landscape couldn’t be more different, but they share the same feeling of being disconnected. And it’s not without irony that failing to disconnect and see the big picture was the single biggest thing I struggled with during that project.
Putting ourselves in a position of boredom is becoming more difficult. We’ve got a podcast for every situation, a blog post for thoughts we hadn’t had time to think about. I find myself jumping from story to story - interrupted only by the cashier’s voice. Maybe there’s a new bright future to these 20th century artist retreats. Maybe we’ll come to depend more on the Big Sur’s and Abisko’s. Escapism 2.0.