How to make your imagination work harder.

I love New York but it can be way too much — and the last few months have pushed me to the limit. The streets have been too damned jammed with holiday tourists and texting millennials.  The pre-dawn construction project down the block had been going on for too damned long. And winter came too damned early and frigid this year. 

JJ and I concluded we had to get out of Dodge, sit in the sun and eat clementines. Now we’re in LA for a month and my sluggish brain is starting to thaw.

It’s not just New York.  It’s modern life.  

We are so overstimulated these days, so constantly bombarded with data and factoids and posts and videos and tweets, that our poor brains never get a chance to absorb all the input. We can’t make fresh connections or invent new directions under this constant barrage. Our heads are overstuffed and overstimulated.  

You can’t force your imagination to produce. Push too hard and you’ll strain yourself. You need to back off and let stuff marinate and digest.

Make your imagination work harder — by letting it rest.

Nice as as it is, you don’t have to come to Cali to turn down the pressure.

Try to spend more time walking without your earbuds. Turn off the car radio. Put your phone on airplane mode and stare out the window. Take an afternoon nap now and then. Turn off the TV and spend the evening in candlelight.

Your hippocampus, the section of your brain that governs learning and memory, can only do its job and synthesize past input once you stop bombarding it with stimulus.  Only then can it sort and organize your experiences to make room for new ideas.   

Allow all the inspiration you’ve been gorging on to settle down and find its proper place in the creative jigsaw puzzle. Take time to allow new connections to form.  Discover new flavors in the endless smorgasbord. Slowly revolve your challenges, like rough cut diamonds in your hands, to find new facets, new reflections, new gleaming ideas.

Breathe and be still till your brain lets you know it’s done incubating. How? When ideas suddenly start to leap up tasty and hot like fresh popped corn.

Speaking of, there’s a fragrant elote cart down the street grilling cobs on charcoal and I’m ready for a snack break. What a great idea! I love LA.

17 thoughts on “How to make your imagination work harder.”

  1. Love it Danny, thanks for this post! I am doing more of that already, no TV, my new inspiration corner which means sitting next to my shelf that is full of art material and has a nice, fluffy carpet. Just sitting there, cats on my lap and silence or some good and easy music. Hope you feel better and have a good time in LA, greetings from Germany!

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  2. Spot on article. The chaos of remodeling in the house has scrambled my brain. Need to retreat to a quiet place and create something. Sensory overload is definitely a deterrent to creating! Love your observations on art and life!

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  3. The quintessential New Yorker disenchanted with New York?? Say it ain’t so Joe! LOL. Enjoy the vacay. Can’t wait to see what it produces.

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  4. If you make it up to the Bay Area before you go home I’d love to show you around our little town where not much happens, if you came on a 1st or 3rd Saturday you could join our Sketchbook Buddies Group at Starbucks or just me on any other day, or my driver and I could show you Tall Ships in San Francisco and get a warm drink or a cup of vegan Chili at the Warming Hut under the Golden Gate Bridge. Or you could hang out in my quilt making studio and design a cup for my latest quilt and walk the tiny meditation path in my backyard garden. We live a quiet simple life where imaginations soar!

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  5. Best creativity always comes when the TV is off or I am outside in nature. A fun thing to do is go to a mall and watch people. As you watch people write down a description of them and then imagine them in a story as a character. You will be surprised what you can come up with.

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  6. I can see the mind working now Danny and of course it makes mine work. Thank you. If you take Lynn Como up on her offer don’t forget Ralph Steadman is on Mission Street.

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  7. Yes, yes, yes!!! Some times ya’ gotta’ get out of town….or pretend you are out of town….! A little sun, a little doing nothing! I have had the urge to go around with a pair of scissors and start cutting the wires to people’s earbuds! LOL! but…..Enjoy your time in LA!

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  8. The pace of modern high tech life and high end art seem insane to me. The only important thing in art is you, the act of you working on your skills and putting them on paper!

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  9. I am so glad you are doing your blog again, Danny. It has always been my most favorite of all the things you do. You have a way of hitting the nail on the head and I find inspiration in what you say. Hope you’ll continue posting.

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  10. Great post Danny. Since I broke my wrist 6 weeks ago I have had an enforced slow down. However, I agree with every word you wrote. Am glad that you and JJ are in the warmth and the sun for a month. Relax, thaw and let us know how you are are doing on the other side!
    I hated leaving Pasadena!

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