Inspiration happens when you don’t need it!

Being creative in any way usually comes with the equivalent of a writes block at some point. You don’t know what to create next, what to write about, what new thing you could try. In the world of Data Visualisation there is always a next data set but after 100 bar charts it becomes kind of boring – even if the bar chart might be the most appropriate chart type for your particular use cases. So what do you do?

Over Easter my partner and I did a 9 day hike on the South Island of New Zealand. We walked around 130km in total and at some point there is nothing to talk about any longer. Without reception there is also nobody else who you could talk with, so you are alone with your thoughts.

You think about what you will eat and drink once you are finished (Pizza and Beer), about recent small and big problems you encountered and about any kind of choices you made in your life which brought you to a place where you don’t see a single person for 2 days or longer. You also think about challenges which wait for you in the office on your return and most of these are related to Tableau in one way or the other.

During these 9 days I came up with a pretty neat architecture for one of the projects at work (ie. it made a lot of sense in my head, now I need to see if I can implement it), I had some interesting ideas how to visualise certain aspects of our hike (I started tracking our tracks a while back, so by now I have a whole pile of data which waits to be visualised) and I came up with some other ideas for  projects to pursue in the next weeks and months. I guess this blog post itself is part of this process as well.

It’s not really a groundbreaking insight that distraction from a topic and “doing something else” helps not to be trapped in a bubble and exposes you to different influences. I do think however that it is easily forgotten.

Most of us are exposed to Tableau around the clock with ~8h hours in the office, a few hours in the evening to work on #MakeoverMondays, #SWDChallenges or private projects, and in between conversations on Twitter about similar topics. If there wasn’t the need for sleep I’d certainly spend a few hours more in this bubble; and seeing the amount of dashboards and blog posts others in the community publish I am also certain that I am not alone in this situation.

I think there were a lot of factors which came together for me in this situation, the length of the trip, the complete lack of connectivity, actual problems which I wanted to solve, random trains of thought, etc. But I do believe that generally it’s a good idea to just take a conscious break of what you are doing to come back afterwards with more and better ideas about what you can and want to do!

My tl;dr would therefore be:

Do something different and forget whatever you work on for a couple of days!

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