Concentration, Creativity, and a Different Kind of Disconnection


We don't know where our ideas come from - but we know they don't come from our laptops.
-- John Cleese

When my husband quit his job at the end of August, I had a misguided belief that I would be able to concentrate full-time on creating the business I dared to dream about. I would write prolifically, connect with power brokers, advocate for a movement towards creative living & mindful spending, and generally do great things with my time & energy because I could concentrate.

But concentration isn't very good for creativity.

If you‚ are racing around all day, ticking things off a list, looking at your watch, making phone calls and generally just keeping all the balls in the air, you are not going to have any creative ideas.
-- John Cleese

Concentration - even focused, productive work - doesn't push us, it doesn't make us more confident, it doesn't stretch our ideas and play with our minds. It kind of shuts us down.

Last week, I had a bit of a breakthrough: I will not be creative & influential & wealthy & prolific sitting in front of my laptop for 12 hours a day.

Creativity requires a kind of "oasis" as Mr. Cleese puts it.

My creative oasis is an evening walk. Immediately after Lola goes to bed, I download the latest Fresh Air podcast, don a pair of shoes fit for a 20 minute walk, and exit through the front door. My iPhone connects me to a greater world as my feet connect with the uneven sidewalks.

When I come home, I don't reach for my laptop again. I reach for a stack of Moleskines that hold rough drafts and notes. I might draft 3 posts from ideas that struck me during my walk. I'll finish them off in the morning when my mind is again fresh. Or they may just sit and wait for when they're needed.

We spend so much time wishing & hoping for more time, more concentration, a more conscious approach to what we want to create. But I'm with John Cleese, part of my work - in fact, the part that creates the most meaningful results - requires shutting down, creating space, freeing yourself from the demands productivity. It requires sleep. It requires selfcare.

These are the things I absolutely must prioritize to be as creative as possible (read: successful & satisfied).

Bold creativity - the kind that great ideas come from - requires work that doesn't feel so much like work: the acceptance that beautiful things come from a place that we can't control.

If I want to truly increase my influence & output, it's time to honor my creativity oasis. I hope you will too.


Tara Gentile empowers you to live more creatively and challenges you to change the world with your money on Scoutie Girl. Take her free 8-part mini course of creating more action in your life.

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  • Hey Tara-

    I was just thinking about this idea this morning. I realized that I do my “best” creative thinking when I’m not physically sitting in front of a blank canvas or blank page. I think more clearly and ideas pop into my mind when I’m taking a shower, washing the dishes, folding laundry, playing with my dogs, or out on a walk. Whenever I feel stuck, I do something where my body can go on autopilot and my mind can just wander. It’s amazing how freeing it can be to give your creative self a little bit of space :)

  • great post. it’s such a double-edged sword to be creative as a profession—we make things but we can’t always make them happen at our whim. often times, things need to steep and brew within us and that’s just not something tangible like so many other employment choices. we can’t always do what’s needed when it may be most timely, lest we sacrifice something beautiful at the expense of someone else’s schedule. that’s not to say that sometimes we must do what’s necessary for a client, but it’s still always refreshing to be able to take some time out and refresh our minds to get that surge in productive creativity that we all thrive and grow on.

  • I find that I get most of my good ideas and inspiration when I’m away from my computer and my work. When you’re deep in it, it’s hard to think beyond your current projects and look to new ideas.

  • Thanks so much for this reminder!
    I used to dread waking up in the wee hours and not being able to get back to sleep, but I’ve found I do some of my best designs during that open time, since there’s nothing else clamoring for my time.