a bus parked on the side of a road near water

#24: Create space for ideas to emerge

Bob Ewing
July 3, 2021
a bus parked on the side of a road near water

Talking Big Ideas.

“Without vacations from distractions, ideas are scarce.”
~ Avi Loeb, Harvard astrophysicist

Maryrose and I drove from Montana to Durango this week.

Most of the trip is long highways with beautiful vistas. We find it calming, even meditative, to drive the bus on the open road. After a while, new ideas pop into our heads. We have fun chatting about them with each other afterwards.

This is much different from stressful city driving. The author John Green recently shared that he loves to drive open roads at night. No music. No podcasts. Just time alone with his thoughts.

It’s peaceful solitude. Time without distractions. Stress dissolves and ideas emerge.

Creating space for such solitude is easier said than done. We are all so busy. And we live in a hyper-connected world that constantly bombards us with distractions fighting for our attention.

Ever wonder why good ideas seem to show up in the shower? It’s often the last refuge of solitude. The one time we give our minds a chance to relax and share insights with us.

If we want to have more ideas, we need to create more space for them to show up.

The psychiatrist Carl Jung built a stone retreat in the woods. He’d go there to think and write, free of distractions. The author Michael Pollan followed Jung’s lead and even wrote a book about it.

Of course, we don’t need to build a cabin — or buy a bus — to get solitude. But we do need to be intentional about creating space to think.

I’m working with an executive now who has a big speech coming up. She’s worried about what to say. Which stories and insights to share. She confided that she’s been too busy to think about it.

She’s not alone. I hear this often.

We’ve all felt it. But to crush our really important projects, we have to find a way to make enough time for them.

Consider Abe Lincoln. Even during the height of the Civil War he made space for solitude. He spent a good chunk of his presidency in a remote cottage north of the White House, alone with his thoughts.

This time was essential for him to think clearly and deeply.

However hectic our lives may be, it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever be busier or more stressed out than Lincoln.

We can all benefit from following his lead. Especially when it comes to pushing forward important projects. For big speaking engagements, we need time alone to think through what we want to say. As Ray Bradbury wrote:

When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange—we’re so busy looking out . . . we forget to look in.



Ideas emerge when we make space for them.

Plan time this weekend to take a short vacation from distraction.

Do whatever activity feels most calm and appealing to you. Take a walk in the woods. Go for a run. Drive the open highway. Relax in nature — or with a long hot shower.

Importantly, during this alone time leave your phone at home. Create space for your mind to relax and open up.


Here are ten ways I like to enjoy vacations from distractions:

  • Birdwatching
  • Climbing long easy routes in the mountains
  • Driving the bus on open highways
  • Laying in a tree hammock
  • Listening to Deep Focus and Pilgrim Heart
  • Playing guitar and fiddle
  • Running through the woods with our dog Ollie
  • Sitting comfy outside and doing breathing exercises
  • Washing dishes
  • Watching the sun set

How about you? What are ways that you enjoy taking vacations from distractions? What is missing from my list that you recommend?

Please let me know.

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