Turn Off the GPS

Some years ago I was driving through Picardy in Northern France with my mate Danny. We were in an old MG with no GPS.

By the time we realized it, the moment of getting lost, had passed.

We’d missed a turn somewhere and before we knew it we had no idea where we were.

We were good and lost.

The map wasn’t much help because we couldn’t fix our location.

We reached a fork in the road and had to make a decision.

We tossed a coin.

Then we were turning left and climbing the brow of a gentle hill.

As we crested the hill, spread out before us bathed in the golden evening sunlight lay the picturesque town of St-Valéry-sur-Somme.

As its name suggests the town sits on the southern side of the wide Somme estuary.

Coasting down the road into town we were met by the tang of salt on the breeze.

And the sun had just begun to turn the water the colour of flame.

The MG seemed to steer itself, right into the gravel car park of the Relais de Guillame, a splendidly ramshackle fin de siècle château, turned hotel.

We decided to spend the night there before we even got out of the car.

The bar and restaurant were spacious and high ceilinged lined art with Art Nouveau wallpaper faded by sunlight and time.

But the meal we enjoyed was light and contemporary.

We stuck around, and over the next couple of days we explored the small town with its medieval walls and gatehouses.

We ate lunch at charming and inexpensive quayside restaurants bursting with fresh fish.

We strolled along the boardwalk past substantial Edwardian seaside villas built by prosperous bourgeoisie, to the point with the light house.

It was the best part of our trip.

And if we hadn’t got lost we wouldn’t have found it.

But getting lost is usually viewed with frustration.

It’s the antithesis of our rigid compartmentalized time-starved lives.

So it’s usually seen as a failure to arrive.

Instead of an opportunity to discover something new.

Getting lost is wrong; it denotes a lack of planning or navigational nous.

Like wasting time it’s seen as non-productive, almost sacrilegious.

But what is creativity, if it isn’t getting lost?

Staring at a blank piece of paper, thinking what if I can’t think of anything?

If you don’t feel a little afraid you’re just going through the motions.

Using the tricks and techniques you know and staying in your comfort zone.

Relying on what has worked in the past.

After a point, that’s repetitive not creative.

Creative means throw away the compass.

Get in the un-comfort zone.

Put some random back in the mix.

Turn off the GPS.

Get lost.