Your subconscious is a powerful creative weapon. Don’t be afraid to make it sweat every now and then.

I’ve been grappling with a couple of thorny thinking exercises the last 24 hours:

  • Where are those photos from my year abroad in 1998/99
  • and where shall I take my friend and his family when they meet me in London?

The photos first

You think you know where you’ve put something cherished. You can see it so clearly in your mind that you assume you know where it is. And you only look for it when you need it, which you don’t very often, so inevitably it stays hidden.

Your memory depletes year by year until, one day you want, but inevitably can’t find, the very thing you can describe to the very last detail.

So it was for me. I had a couple of envelopes full of old photos. The envelopes were silver with yellow stripes and each had about an inch thick of photos. Not easy to misplace.

Yesterday I remembered them. They contain photos of the old friend I’m meeting today and haven’t seen in nearly 25 years.

I searched the house top to bottom twice. I remembered places they’d lived before, corners, drawers, shelves they’d visited once upon a time, like the transient objects they were.

I couldn’t see them anywhere.

Where shall I take my friend?

I’ve known for weeks that I was meeting my friend. We’re meeting in London, so there’s plenty to do on a summer’s evening.

My plan had been to meet him and his family for drinks after work.

But yesterday I remembered he has children and one of them is still in middle school.

And my knowledge of London isn’t what it once was.

Post pandemic, you can’t assume the same bars, restaurants and attractions are open.

They travelled today, so I don’t want to be too late eating, too far from the tube station, don’t want it to be too boozy, and so on and so on.

So today I was having a mini-freak out. Argh, where do I take them??!!


Interestingly, I got to the solutions in very similar ways

You might have read before about why creative thoughts come to you in the shower. Drench link to research showing that you need a comfortable environment, isolation and doing something that’s you don’t have to think about to stimulate creative thought.

I agree, but my own experience also says you can be a bit more proactive about this.

(BTW, I like this article from bathroom appliance provider, Drench. Not only because it’s well written, but it’s also great copy to promote their business. Go Drench!)

But back to the point.

Solutionising: photos

I was in the shower, cooking down after my two rounds of picture hunting. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so there was no relaxing and letting my mind wander here.

I thought about all the rooms in the house and the attic and the shelves and drawers and boxes I’d checked.

Then I thought about what might be with the photos. Was there anything else I hadn’t seen in a while.

Sure enough, I hadn’t seen some postcards and paintings I had from the time. Then I remembered I had a whole box of pictures from my teens I hadn’t seen for a while either.

That was it – I wasn’t looking for the silver envelopes, I was looking for the box!

Solutionising: where to take my friend

A couple of tough Zoom meetings and a whole load of thinking about today and I felt zapped by 1pm.

So I went to the contemplation room in my office, set the timer for 20 minutes and closed my eyes.

Naturally, I found it tough to quiet my mind, so I thought through my options.

Thinking about bars and restaurants hadn’t helped. Nor had train stations.

So I thought about old nights out. Entertaining, but no joy.

Old offices. Likewise.

Landmarks – success! I could combine a walk past St Paul’s cathedral with dinner in a nice continental-style square just next to it. Close to the station. Not too rowdy for a youngster. Good food and alcohol on tap.

How it all turned out

The photos

Sure enough, in a corner of the loft hidden behind other things, was a box I assumed had baby toys in. But instead was full of shoe boxes, including the photos I hadn’t found anywhere else.


The friend?

I’m about to meet him. So we’ll see how this plan turns out.

So my advice – next time you need to get creative, let your subconscious do it’s thing by all means, but don’t be afraid to put it through its paces and make it sweat!

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