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How your brain’s neuro-prison kills creativity

Back when I was a youngster, the BBC would play old 1960s T.V. shows – like Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Stingray.

One of my favourites was called “The Prisoner.”

It’s all about a man who discovers compromising government information.

He’s imprisoned on an island utopia to keep the information secret.

He’s not mistreated. He has no strong reason to complain. In many ways, his “prison” is a paradise…

…But if he tries to escape, or if anyone breaks the rules, a big white bubble – called “Rover” – hunts him down and captures him.

See footage of big white Prisoner bubble here:

Anyway, it reminds me a lot of life today – in the age of COVID 19.

No, I’ve no good reason to complain.

Hopefully it’s the same for you.

But my neighbourhood started to feel like a large compound, where everyone’s happy, but nobody’s allowed to leave.

It’s a drain on creativity, too.

When you walk the same paths, doing the same things, your brain’s neurological-connectors get lethargic. The other week in the FT, I read how our brains are alert in new places, to help us process the surroundings and analyse the risks.

This alertness makes your brain efficient at memorising facts, and playing with new ideas.

“Fresher ideas and clearer memories come when one works somewhere different.” – Tom Hartford, FT

It’s a big reason why, when you think of a ground shaking event – like 9/11, or the fall of the Berlin Wall – your mind first jumps to where you were when it happened.

One of my great advertising heroes, Steve Harrison, talks about fresh surroundings in his book How to Do Better Creative Work. If I remember right,  he mentioned how his agency would give a free week of holiday to anyone who took off two back-to-back weeks.

Harrison actually wanted his team to get away, unplug, and have the time to explore a new place in-depth.

This refuels your creativity in a way you don’t experience with day trips and weekend mini-breaks.

Yet how many companies today actively discourage long holidays? Or want you to be available on email 24/7? So they can bother you with insane drivel that makes it impossible to “get away”?

Nothing is so important.

Even during The American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln visited the theatre most nights. He was criticised for this. How could the President visit the theatre at a time of such crisis? 

Lincoln knew it was necessary to recharge. Without those breaks, Lincoln said, the stress would have killed him. (Ironically, in the end, it was visiting the theatre which killed him, but that’s another story.)

But that’s enough rambling. Time for some advice:

If your life feels in any way monotonous, do something different. Even if it’s something as simple as exercising at a different time, or getting groceries from a different store.

If you can get away for a while, do it as soon as you possibly can. Chances are, it’ll pay you back a handsome return on your time investment.

As for me, I’m disappearing into the Algonquin wilderness for a few days next week. And I’m taking nothing electronic. Not even a kindle. Unless you’re a moose or bear, I will be absolutely impossible to reach.

But I’ve made a pact to get my first draft of Gold Standard Copywriting to you before I go. This will be published with next-week’s post, September 7th – strictly – no excuses.

You’re shown how to write breakthrough copy at breakneck speed. And it includes a full case study, revealing some of the ways we managed to DOUBLE Motley Fool UK’s subscribers in less than 12 months. And how we managed to beat their annual profit targets by £1million. 

You really don’t want to miss this, I’m sure.

So please keep your eyes peeled.