Driving Is Great For Creative Thinking To Get Big Ideas – Here’s Why


For many people, a car is just a way to get from point A to point B. For others, cars have more meaning, whether it’s the simple pleasure of driving, doing a trip with friends and family, or a reflection of his personality. Cars can also serve other purposes – in ways you might not expect. Driving a car is a wonderful catalyst for creative thinking to come up with great ideas.

How driving a car makes you more creative

A man driving a car | Rich Pearce/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images)

Have you ever had an unexpected “aha” moment while doing a routine activity? This could be while you’re in the shower, cooking in the kitchen, brushing your teeth at the sink, or working out at a gym. You will plug in, and then bam! A brilliant idea comes to your mind.

Thinking of a beautiful way to decorate your home. If you’re an artist, you might dream up a vision for a painting or dream up a new song in your head. It can also be thinking of a solution to a problem that has been holding you back or brainstorming new ideas for your work.

A woman sticks her head out of the car window, highlighting driving for creative thinking and big ideas
A woman sticks her head out of a car window | Averie Woodard

While in college, to help pay for my tuition, I had an extremely boring job packing boxes on an assembly line in a warehouse. However, it was also one of the most creative moments of my life. I wrote dozens of songs and dreamed up travel plans around the world while working regularly on the assembly line.

It’s no mere coincidence that your mind is most creative when it’s busy with routine activities. The same applies when driving a car. When you’re in a vehicle, moving regularly from point A to point B, your mind can think of spectacular ideas. What else, Aviva found that one in five people use a car trip to think. Moreover, during the first months of the pandemic, when people were driving less, one in four people missed the “opportunity to think” that a vehicle provides.

The science behind creative thinking behind the wheel

Man driving a car on the open road, highlighting driving for creative thinking to get big ideas
View of the open road from a car | Hamza Bounaim via Unsplash

There’s an interesting scientific reason why people are more creative when driving a car. Dr. Shelley Carson is the author of Your Creative Brain and a researcher and lecturer at Harvard University. She has studied the connection between psychology, creativity and neuroscience for over two decades.

“I drive 50 miles from work to my house in South Boston. It probably takes me about 20 minutes to get out of town, and that’s when I start to calm down,” Dr. Carson said. She continued, “As soon as I hit the road, I’m relaxed, and that’s when the ideas really start to filter through and work their way through the filters.”

Light from a sunset shines on a car, highlighting driving for creative thinking for big ideas
Sunset drive | Ben Shanks via Unsplash

When you do non-routine, mentally stimulating activities, a part of the brain called the central executive network is more active. The central executive network is the conscious part of the brain that allows us to focus on an activity. It also filters out what it considers non-essential thoughts from the subconscious mind, called the default mode network. Also called the imagination network, the default mode network is the part that does mental wandering and creative thinking.

Dr. Carson explains, “When you drive on an open road for a long time, you go into an automatic state that lowers the volume on the central executive network. This frees up a lot of your processing space to let your mind wander. Ideas that would normally be filtered out collide and reach what I call the cognitive workspace, or conscious awareness.

How to use a car trip to enhance your creativity

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You can use a car drive to tap into your creative potential. The next time you feel the need for some creative inspiration or come across a tough problem you’re struggling to overcome, head to your car. The best kind of roads for creative thinking are those that are quiet and have little to no traffic.

“Changes in scenery provide new external stimuli in the cognitive workspace at the same time as your internal stimuli, which is beneficial for creativity, as long as the scenery doesn’t take away your focus,” Dr. Carson said.

Gather information before your car ride, then ideas will bloom as you drive

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Plus, it helps gather all the information you need before you start your vehicle. “Let’s say you’re writing a book and you’re stuck. Review your problem as much as you can, then pause for a moment before going for a walk.

It’s like planting seeds in a garden. You plant the seeds of information in your brain before you get in the car. Then, when you’re on the road, that information will develop and prosper into big ideas with an explosion of creativity.

Plus, it’s easy to forget about your creative ideas while driving. With that in mind, it’s helpful to save them so you can remember them later. You can talk about your ideas into a recording device. You can also park on the side of the road to write them down or type them on a smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Before you embark on your next road trip, prepare your brain for a little creativity – and you might have your next brilliant idea.

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