Why our blogging hive is your creative spark plug

by Craig McBreen · 33 comments · Creativity


The most creative places on earth are densely populated urban centers.

Tightly packed cities mean traffic, crime, noise and general craziness, but squeezing people together brings out creativity.

Think about all this interaction. Cities are like idea factories, where all the friction acts as a catalyst for inventiveness. So much interaction is good for the mind, but it’s also good for the soul. In fact, according to urbanist Leo Hollis, living in a city can make us fitter, richer, smarter, greener, more creative – and, perhaps, even happier.

But what about our tightly packed online village?

The last time I checked, the social web was pretty damn crowded.

All good. The more people you interact with, the more folks you read, and the more seeds you spread (get your mind out of the gutter), the better off you are. In fact, all this mixing bumps up your creative IQ a few points.

You spread your knowledge and like a dry sponge, you soak up the wisdom of others.

In fact, we’re all actively bouncing ideas off each other all the time.

Cordial, heated or in-between, you usually walk away with something. A tidbit of knowledge. An idea for a new post, or a spark of insight.

The trick is not getting sucked into the vortex. This place should enrich your mind, so it’s important to maintain some kind of focus and not get lost in the bright and shiny.

You may even want to step away, because our online city has plenty of sucking power and can kill creativity as well as foster it.

But really, if used correctly the social web is the most creative force I know. I’ve grown more in my one year of blogging than ever in the history of my little existence. I am but a speck on a pale blue dot in a vast universe.

… But as a speck I do a lot of bouncing and growing.

We’re all bits colliding in a kinetic dance. Sparking ideas and generating creative energy.

Cities are packed hives of activity, but so is our online utopia. It’s just a different form of interaction. You see words and avatars, but you are interacting with real people and this, my friend, is how you grow.

I wrote a post about solitude and stand by the statement that seclusion is good for the soul, at least for introverts.

But in that post I wrote about why our little online village is so crackin’. While participating in our online utopia, you have a chance to experience privacy AND participation. That’s dope, phat and Jim Dandy.

It is! It’s a brilliant form of interaction and it’s good exercise for both left and right lobes of your old noggin.

So why not celebrate this digital heaven, really.

Enjoy the process, but be a focused little speck and become the virtuoso you know you are.

Suck up the flowing knowledge like a Libman dish sponge and keep rocking’ in our digital wonderland. But please, don’t get lost.

Enjoy the trip, maintain constant focus and expand that creative mind of yours.

How is the social web like a city to you?

And how has it expanded your creativity?

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg) November 8, 2012 at 2:10 am

I hadn’t thought about it, but you are right. Since I joined Triberr, I’ve been exposed to a lot of blogs, and in turn, a bunch of new ideas. It has changed my own writing, because the ideas one person writes about gets me thinking and forming new ones of my own.

When I’m stumped for a topic, I start reading blogs and wait for the magic to happen.
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Craig McBreen November 8, 2012 at 3:06 am

Hi Brian,

Yes, Triberr has introduced me to many new faces, which is great. So many personalities and unique approaches to the practice of blogging. I do keep soaking up a like a sponge and it sounds like you are too, Sir!

Thanks for stopping in!

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Ralph November 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Just like any city there are certain neighbourhoods I don’t want to go in. Discerning those from the good ones seems easier in the digital realm.

Great analogy. City living is fabulous. The restos, the galleries, the people, the interaction. It’s all awesome even for an introvert because the choice is there. I love it.

I am a firm believer that great ideas come from collaboration. One company that many creative firms in the A+D field try to model themselves after is IDEO. They are a prime example of looking outside of the immediate surroundings to find inspiration.

Great post Craig.
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Craig McBreen November 8, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Hi Ralph,

Good point ;) “Discerning those from the good ones seems easier in the digital realm.” … and so correct.

Yes, my wife and I miss it and may go back when the youngest heads off to college, but maybe a city in, say, … Spain ;)

Agreed and love IDEO. Amazing company!

Thanks!

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Craig McBreen November 8, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Oh, and you might want to check out Luke Williams (part of Frog Design – another very innovative co.) Anyway, I love his blog, Disrupt.

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Carolyn @ Wonder of Tech November 10, 2012 at 1:03 am

Ralph, I like your and Craig’s analogies. You’re right, there are neighborhoods I don’t want to visit and avoid unless I get lost. There are also those dark alleys we can happen upon and then become victims of crime, such as viruses.

Triberr has made the blogosphere seem more friendly and like a neighborhood where I want to hang out. If you get in a tribe that’s a good fit, you can discover great blogs you might never have found otherwise.

Triberr also is a great incentive to keep your lawn trimmed and your garden blooming. You don’t want to disappoint your neighbors who will be frequently stopping by to visit your place!
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Craig McBreen November 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Hi Carolyn,

Yeah, now my son has some nasty malware on his PC once again. This is another reason I like Macs. Not sure which dark alley this one came from, but more work for me to remove it.

Seems like Triberr is really gaining some traction lately. I guess its finally hit its stride and I certainly agree with you. Made some nice discoveries there.

Definitely trying to keep my lawn in good shape ;) Thanks for stopping in!

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Kaarina Dillabough November 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I like the image of bits colliding in a kinetic dance. I will continue to dance, through the ups and downs and in-betweens. And yes…through it all, I will FOCUS. Cheers! Kaarina
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Craig McBreen November 8, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Hi Kaarina,

Maybe you’ll have pleasant dreams of bits colliding ;)

Lot of ups and downs and in-betweens, but we get nowhere without, focus, yep!

Keep dancin’! and cheers to you!

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Suddenly Jamie November 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I’m with Kaarina – LOVE that visual of the kinetic dance.

It’s funny, I was thinking along these same lines last night – not so much on the solitude side of things (though I agree that spending time with yourself is extremely valuable), but more about stepping outside of your usual haunts and social circles.

I consume a LOT of blogs and a handful of podcasts. Most of them are related to two fields – marketing or writing. Last night, however, I watched a couple episodes of Nova on my local PBS station (LOVE PBS) and had my mind blown and my perspective broadened.

It’s dangerously easy to slip into a rut with our online travels – same blogs, same podcasts, same streams and groups on social networks. Venturing off the beaten track holds great treasure in the form of not only new connections and new information, but new perspectives on your primary areas of interest. I find that whenever I consume content that’s “off topic” for me (like the Nova shows), it has a two-part benefit: 1) I learn something new, and 2) I overlay that new information onto what I know about my core topics. I not only get to expand my mind by taking in and appreciating the content for what it is (and what it’s about), but I get to use it to augment the information and stories I already have in my head.

For instance, one of the shows last night was about whether or not animals have a sense of morality. Fascinating topic, let me tell you. I loved learning about the scientists and experiments and findings for their intrinsic value, BUT I also automatically started thinking about how that new information colored or changed my pre-existing thoughts about marketing and writing. On the marketing side, learning that many animals demonstrate a level of empathy for their fellows than we humans do for each other made me start thinking about the roots of connecting with prospects through empathy and then proving that empathy through actions. On the writing side, learning about the different theories for how homing pigeons find their way home (sense of smell, magnetic lines, sound resonance) gave me some great new ideas for the Nanowrimo novel I’m working on which has an element of “Earth magic”.

Expanding our worlds – physical and digital – is SUCH an important part of growing and learning and discovering new ways to see the world, solve problems, and bring value to what we do.

Thanks for giving me a place to ramble on about this. Love the way your posts inspire these kinds of thoughts! :)
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Craig McBreen November 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Hi Jamie,

Wow! Bang-on comments!

I think stepping outside of your usual haunts and social circles is very, very healthy.

I love Nova and PBS, but haven’t watched that show in years (used to all the time). That is a great tip though. I also think it’s great to read a lot of other “stuff”: Scientific American, HBR blog, etc. Lately I’ve been reading quite a bit about the science of nutrition which is way of topic, but very interesting.

I like that you outlined the two-part benefits here. This is great! Really helpful pointers to anyone out there looking for ideas too. Some of my best ideas for posts have come from listening to a comedian’s podcast ;) Good science fiction helps too.

Sounds like a fascinating topic! Getting beyond the blog is healthy and good for the soul. It’s also an experience that can drive creativity as you’ve so eloquently stated. Awesome sauce!

“Expanding our worlds – physical and digital – is SUCH an important part of growing and learning and discovering new ways to see the world, solve problems, and bring value to what we do.”
–Wow! Could not have said this better myself.

You’re welcome and thanks for the details. This gives me some more ideas :)

Have a great night!

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Suddenly Jamie November 9, 2012 at 12:01 am

I’m feeling your excitement and energy right through my screen, dude.

Love that!
So fun to share the conversation with you.

:)
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Craig McBreen November 9, 2012 at 12:18 am

Yes, very cool. Great comments!

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Jon Buscall November 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm

It’s a tough one balancing engagement with solitude. I can step into Twitter and disappear down a wormhole of interesting things. But I also work at stepping away from social media channels and trying to be reflective over the things that I take in. Otherwise I find myself caught up in the flux of ideas that it becomes overloaded and I get caught up in the traffic lights of the social media juggernaut .

I’ve found the most interesting ideas come from conversations. I guess that’s why I’m a podcaster. Hopefully it won’t be too long until I can get you on the show Craig !
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Craig McBreen November 9, 2012 at 12:02 am

Hi Jon,

Indeed and so easy to disappear in the Twitter wormhole. Funny, I was listening to a Julien Smith interview several weeks ago and his advice? … Stop reading blogs, now! ;) I do think getting away from the bubble is necessary to maintain focus and creativity.

It is so easy to get caught up (sucked in) and completely lose your bearings.

“… caught up in the traffic lights of the social media juggernaut” –Love that line ;)

Your podcast is one of the best and the more I listen the more I wonder if I should give it a go. (video or podcasting … both would be too much). You’re a great evangelist for the medium.

You know where to find me.

Have a good one!

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Eugene Farber November 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I was having a hard time finishing the entire post because I was trying to get my mind out of the gutter :).

You make a great point about not getting sucked into the vortex. I was just reading a study about dopamine, and it turns out that dopamine makes us “search things out.” That’s why many people find themselves browsing the internet for hours at a time without even realizing it – it’s all about dopamine receptors.

Searching and finding makes us feel good. Discovering makes us feel good. And its easier than ever to do that “discovery.”

So while we are living in an age where creativity and discovery should be at an all time high, we can get lost in the mess and never actually do anything with it.
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Craig McBreen November 9, 2012 at 12:07 am

Hey Eugene,

Ha! I was wondering who would catch that ;)

Now that would be a fascinating topic to write about – dopamine receptors, huh? It’s no wonder so many succumb to the swirling vortex then. Interesting.

Discovering and learning is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing … but you just have to know when to flip the “off” switch.

“Getting lost in the mess” is a great way to put it, because it can become an unwieldy stack of crap that gets you nowhere.

Thanks and great to see you here!

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Hajra November 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

There are just too many people here. And as much as I would love to be everywhere, reading about newer ideas, this online city just never sleeps, pauses or stops for one second!

I am exposed to so many new blogs everyday and each one just so much to offer. It is like a gigantic storage of knowledge, ideas and just a lot more. But yes, I love I get to learn about so many things every time I read!
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Craig McBreen November 9, 2012 at 12:12 am

Hi Hajra,

Great to see you here. And yes, there are too many peeps on the social web. I would love to be everywhere too, but ’tis certainly impossible. And like you wrote about our “Global” social town, “this online city just never sleeps, pauses or stops for one second!”

Learning is all part of the experience and check out what Eugene wrote above. It’s all about dopamine receptors. Now that’s something to read up on.

Thanks again for stopping in!

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Mary Stephenson November 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Hi Craig

We sure can gain a lot of knowledge on the internet, but you can easily get knowledge overload. City life can provide ample to blog about, but there are times I really wish I could just pack up and move to the country. More so on the days when the fools drive me crazy! I think the country would bring me plenty to blog about and the peace would inspire for sure.

I am also an introvert. Went over and read your post on solitude. I am so much more creativity when alone with my thoughts. My daughter is an extrovert and needs people around her to be happy. I am the total opposite.

Getting out of the rut would be great but it seems I still have unfinished business that needs to be done so I can settle down and start my major project. Continuing in small steps to finish up things will hopefully get me focused in the right direction if not in one month, maybe the first of the year. Trying to spend energy only on the stuff that matters for now.

Love the insight today.
Mary
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Craig McBreen November 9, 2012 at 12:18 am

Hi Mary,

We sure do, but that overload factor is a bear! Ha ha, that’s a good point about the fools ;)

That’s the problem with being so packed in, there are always the people out to confront you, even if you did nothing. These days I just let it fly by and let them go on their merry way, because you really do never know what is going on in their world.

I’m exactly like you with creativity. Group brainstorming was never my thing and people can drain you. Interesting that your daughter is the opposite.

Good luck with your major project. I hope to hear more about it!

Those small steps are key. Heck, I took a few of my own today. Good luck and check in soon.

Thanks and great to see you here!

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Geoff Livingston November 9, 2012 at 3:17 am

I think you touched on an important issue, which is balance. It’s hard to know how much to immerse yourself, and when to walk away. I know some authors who don’t read any other marketers so their stuff stays prescient. I personally don’t read people who I am too closely associated with so I differentiate. We do what we must.
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Craig McBreen November 9, 2012 at 3:54 am

Hi Geoff,

I struggled with this mightily, early on. I would imagine breaking from the confines of the echo chamber is difficult for authors and everyday bloggers alike. With all the research that goes into a book though, I imagine it’s even harder to walk away, and so easy to get completely sucked in.

Lately I’ve been exploring some undiscovered neighborhoods and I like what I see.

“I personally don’t read people who I am too closely associated with so I differentiate.”
–Sounds like a very good practice to me!

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Tom King November 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm

With todays society so focused on interconnectivity and social media making sure to have a successful blog is key. Great article.

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Craig McBreen November 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Hi Tom,

It certainly is and thanks! Appreciate you stopping in.

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Ryan Hanley November 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Craig,

Great thoughts brother and I really couldn’t agree with you more. I’m all about reading other bloggers and learning and adapting and building upon the ideas of others and making them mine and then sharing them and allowing someone else to add their layer of thought and make the idea their own…

It’s how we grow.

Constantly adding our layer to the discussion.

All the best,

Hanley
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Craig McBreen November 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Hey Ryan,

Thanks, man. It IS how we grow – as long as we manage it and know when to step back. Sounds like the “Steal Like An Artist” credo. Simply creating based on the processes of others, sharing of ideas, etc. And of course, nothing is original.

“Constantly adding our layer to the discussion.”
–Love that!

Thanks for stopping in.

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Jens P. Berget November 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

It’s true, but it took me a while to understand that I should be among people close to every single day in order to get inspiration and be as creative as possible. What I do is that I am among people online and offline, and I suck the information and creative things out of them (without them knowing), and I sit down in my quiet office to gather my thoughts and create :)

I need the quiet space to get things done, but I need the inspiration from people to get me started.
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Craig McBreen November 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Hi Jens,

Online, it’s a struggle sometimes: Getting in just enough and finding some kind of balance between reading, commenting and your actual work. I’m like you, and if I see something I like I give it a try, with my own spin of course. Lot’s of room for experimentation here.

“I need the quiet space to get things done, but I need the inspiration from people to get me started.”
– Me too. And this village of ours is the best place for this.

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jsncruz December 11, 2012 at 5:51 am

Makes perfect sense. I live in one of the densest urban centers in Southeast Asia and inspiration and ideas are virtually everywhere – from the people I meet to the places I visit.
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Craig McBreen December 12, 2012 at 2:18 am

Hi Jason,

Sounds like a great hive to me! Especially southeast asia, one of the true “hot spots” on the globe.

Thanks for popping in, Sir!

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