Thursday, April 29, 2010

Move Abroad, Get Creative

If you move to a foreign country, will you become more creative? A study last year in the Economist seemed to support this.  Meanwhile, when I think of all the great artists ranging from painters to writers to poets, most had spent some time away from their home lands. Still, all of this is anecdotal in nature, lacking anything concrete specifics, so is it true or a myth that living abroad inspires creativity?

Speaking from my personal experience, I do feel more creative since moving to Spain.  Part of the reason, I think, is the need to communicate in a foreign language. Searching for the right word, trying to find the correct way to ask for something forces my brain to be active even when it's something simple like buying milk. Of course, sometimes, even today, I can't always come up with the right word or the correct tense, which makes me look for non verbal ways to communicate: miming, sketching, a combination of the two with a few made-up words thrown in. The end result is: I usually get what I want, utilizing parts of my brain that wouldn't been used otherwise, making even the most mundane of actions stimulating.

But more than the language, I'd say the increased creativity has more to do with the freedom of thought and openness that comes with moving to a foreign land.  Basic assumptions about life are challenged by new experiences.  I've learned that there is often no right or wrong way to do things - only different. A walk in the park triggers a whole new thought process when I compare my new life to the one I left. While without the comfortable surroundings of my past, I'm forced to get out and experience life, rather than settle into a daily routine of letting it pass me by as I watch T.V. or daydream.  So by the end of even the most unadventurous day, my mind is full of sights, sounds and smells that it wouldn't have been otherwise, which in turn spurs my creativity inspiring me to write.

So if you're feeling bored, stagnated and  uncreative at home, sell your possessions, buy a ticket for a place you've always wanted to go and set a goal to stay for one year.  Perhaps, you won't stay forever, but even if that's the case, you'll return a different, more creative person with enough material to paint that picture, sing that song or write that book which you've always had in you.


  1. Hi Mr Holland!

    I agree I act more imaginatively and I tend to appreciate more the little details when I'm in a foreign country, the mind is "active" instead of being "sedated" by daily routines. So, I guess it's a good starting point to create things...

  2. Certainly seemed to work for Ambrose Bierce, Hemingway, and Sam Beckett!