Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

112: How Your Surroundings Ignite Your Creativity (And What To Do About It) with Eric Weiner

I used to believe that creative work was mysterious. That coming up with a good idea, finding inspiration, or writing a blog post or book wasn’t something I could plan for, but was something I had to wait to happen to me.

I’m not alone in this, either. There’s a shroud of mystery that surrounds creative work. And I totally get it. Creative ideas can at times appear out of nowhere. And when I’m most in need of creative inspiration, it can be hard to find.

So, is creativity something you can plan for?

Well, the answer is yes and no.

You see, there’s no exact science, formula, or process you can follow to successfully yield creative results 100% of the time. What works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others.

However, you can teach yourself how to become more creative, learn how to identify good ideas, and even change your surroundings or the place you live to improve your creative work.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Eric Weiner and I talk about why creative work flourishes in certain places today and throughout history. Eric discovered in his research and travels a significant connection between the place you live, your surroundings, and the influence they have on your personal creativity.

Listen in as Eric shares the common elements that not only lead certain places to become more creative, but will also help you to improve your personal creativity.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here.)


Show highlights

In this episode, Eric and I discuss:

  • The process Eric used to land on his book idea for The Geography of Genius.
  • Why you should maintain a balance of knowledge and ignorance when writing.
  • Celebrating and learning from your mistakes in life and work.
  • Finding creative inspiration in unlikely places.
  • Embracing the challenges in your life to grow in your creative work.
  • The three common elements that make places creative.
  • How to turn harness creativity in your home and family.
  • The importance of doing creative work in collaboration with others.
  • Why you need to possess courage in your pursuit of doing creative work.
  • Eric’s hypothesis on the world’s next most creative place.

Quotes and takeaways

  • “Nothing is new except arrangement.” -Will Durant
  • If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a city to raise a genius.
  • Learning from mistakes is an important part of the creative process.
  • As a creative person, you need to learn how to discern between good and bad ideas.
  • Successful creatives are engaged with people and their world; they’re not isolated from it.


Is your creativity fostered or inhibited based upon where you live? Have you considered moving to a certain place to pursue creative work? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • For someone who lives in-the-middle-of-nowhere, this was an inspiring episode. Thanks for having this fascinating conversation Jeff and Eric! It has my wheels turning as I consider how I can usher more creativity and camaraderie into my life.

  • Stanzil Dsouza


  • True, Creative ideas can at times appear out of nowhere. Your podcasts are worthy listening Jeff.

    – Bishal.

  • dhirendra goyal
  • Really enjoyed this.

    Right now, my surroundings are both helping and hindering. I live in Siberia, which challenges me daily and feeds my creativity …. but on the other hand, it also isolates me from creative community. I can’t communicate with the artists here, having only limited Russian!

    Here’s hoping the next place I move to ends up being more fertile for community-building…

    • Hi Randi. I really liked this episode too.

      Wow, Siberia? What brought you there? Do you have tech-based avenues for connecting to a supportive, creative community while in Siberia?

      • I’m here teaching. 🙂 My contract ends in December, though, so I’ll be heading back home to the US. For now, I have a very small online community–small as in 1-3 people, but it’s supportive!