This is not the first summer that I’ve taken a break from all digital, all the time. And I hope it won’t be the last. As I wrote last July, there’s something about a stretch away from DC that makes me feel like a kid in camp who wants to try new activities. This summer it was plein air painting. Above is the result of a class I took with painter Jill Hoy.

Please understand that I am not, nor do I consider myself, an artist – nor do I have any training. But I do love color. So squeezing out gouache paint and mixing it (without getting all the colors muddy) can keep me occupied for hours. Just as gazing at the icy waters and granite-rimmed islands off the coast of Maine is a timeless activity.

But there’s a lesson here. Physically removing yourself from your normal environment can have a highly salutary effect.

Long-term travel is one way to accomplish this. Another way is to go somewhere else – and stay for a while. The coast of Maine works for me.  You probably have your own favorite place, whether it’s the beach or the mountains. It’s helpful if it’s outside the noise and distractions of a city.

The second lesson is that exercising unfamiliar muscles in your brain frees up new possibilities. It’s liberating. Most adults are much too hard on themselves. But hey, I’m not an artist. So whatever I paint is great – or not. It doesn’t matter. Whereas I consider myself a writer and judge my writing harshly.

5 reasons to play hooky

So here is the value of playing a bit of hooky in a quiet place:

1. Your brain switches off, then back on in a different mode.

2. The stupid stuff recedes.

3. The important stuff begins to rise to the surface.

4. After a while, you realize you are ready to start thinking again.

5. You look differently at whatever your chosen medium is.

Note that I haven’t used the word “working.” But that in effect is what I mean. If your “work” largely consists of thinking creatively and strategically – and you’re having a hard time producing whatever it is you produce, maybe you need a hiatus.

So now that I’ve gotten into a zen state (well, as zen as it’s going to get), I’m ready to head to Portland, OR to take part in a Lift Off retreat with Pam Slim and Charlie Gilkey – for some serious thinking, strategizing and planning on what comes next. That’s all I’ll say for now for what I’m planning. Stay tuned.