To Grow Creativity, Let More Cars in Your Mental Garage

by Mark Hurwich

As a coach clearing blocks to creativity and self-expression in life and work, I was curious about how one business owner, a tattoo artist (who happens to be my sister Meryl Hurwich) so quickly embraces new ideas and uncovers possibilities that others resist. How’d she learn to listen with less judgment, and evolve her business and life in such a healthy way? I asked her to share her philosophy.

“Years ago, I realized that people act as if they park ideas in a garage with room for only ten or so cars, and the cars must all get along with each other,” explains Meryl. “Every new idea gets compared to the old ones—‘yup, this fits with the ideas I have…nope, not that one’—so not a lot gets in that doesn’t match what’s already there.”

Once Meryl saw how this filter eliminated innovative opportunities before she even test-drove them, she uncovered a novel way to allow more ideas: “I realized that I couldn’t stop comparing. So rather than either accepting or rejecting ideas based on the small garage, I added a third option for ideas that don’t fit my mental model, yet appeal to me. It sounds silly, but now when I encounter ideas that don’t fit, I tell myself that I’m adding another floor in my garage for different cars. It satisfies the part of me that wants consistency, and I’m able to explore more with less stress.”

While some new ideas might seem like cars she would never drive, having a new place to put them gives Meryl a broader lens through which to explore them and the freedom to test-drive them. She might not keep those cars on the new floor ultimately, but at least she tried them before making the decision to pass them up.

For example, Meryl frequently encounters customers with ideas for artwork that won’t work as tattoos: skin isn’t paper. When tempted to say, “no,” Meryl has found that by making new space in her mental garage, she can let go of having to judge in that moment. So, she can keep listening to what her clients have to say, and find a more creative solution. Meryl’s approach demonstrates one of the benefits of mindfulness, slowing down enough not to rush past possibilities just because, at first, they don’t seem useful. The technique Meryl uses facilitates that.

Use the “COPE” strategy if you want to do the same:

  1. Be Curious: notice those moments where a part of you is saying, “no,” to a new idea
  2. Open another floor in your own mental garage for it.
  3. Park the idea there for a while…let it just be, and continue to listen to whatever else is going on.
  4. Explore: now that you’ve heard more, let your creativity suggest ways to use the new idea.,

With the mental garage approach, new ideas that would have been rejected often evolve and merge with others. You might find yourself driving a hybrid.


Mark Hurwich founded Concentrated Coaching; he helps people “stuck”—there’s something they’re skilled enough to do, but can’t bring themselves to do it—get unblocked quickly. For more information, call 267-629-2189 or visit

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