By Michael Stodola Special to Published Jan 26, 2008 at 10:13 AM

As I write this, I'm speeding north on Amtrak's Hiawatha Service from Chicago. I've found the ride perfect for writing a 500-word blog. It's an hour and a half; I can plug in my laptop and the crush of humanity that surrounds me makes for good social observation. (This blog marks my fourth written on the iron rails.)

But today's ride: I got nuthin'.

I fear my Idea Bank has run dry. (Your reply: "Didn't that happen years ago?"). Har-har. Being an advertising creative, your bread and butter is idea generation, whether it leans toward problem-solving or the new presentation of an old, everyday product. You live and die by the ability to consistently create dynamic, relative and persuasive communications. Clients expect this talent, and the agency depends on it to show each morning at 8-cough-cough-55-cough-cough.

But, some days are not as good others. And today seems like the end.

I mean, idea generation requires a loose mind, a fresh sense of the ordinary and enough inspiration to get out of bed. Today, however, is gray and I'm exhausted from last night's crab cakes and red wine. I don't care for my train-car mates as much as I'd hoped and the Amtrak "funny man," who sells soda and chips, just isn't working for me right now. I'm empty as a pocket.

So, what happens now? The inevitable: Night manager at KFC.

Well, just as sure as SpongeBob Squarepants comes back day after day -- although he was shredded by swordfish or fried in boiling oil the day prior -- so will my precious little ideas return to me. It's not like people have a finite number of concepts in their heads. All of us possess the ability to solve the riddle or see something no one has before. It's a process deep inside that asks, "Why not this?" It's built-in mechanism that makes no assumptions based on the past. It's a moveable feast.

That's why, from time to time, we must play golf in our hallways with a little, pink, rubber ball or play tennis on our Nintendo Wii in the editing suite. Some call it wasting time or goofing around on the company's dime, but I call it "play therapy." The trick is to stay loose. Mentally, we're athletes and sitting behind a desk all day leaves one stiff.

This weekend, between cleaning the basement and scooping snow, I'll find plenty of time to play with my kids. My mind will melt and my perspective will fall wide-open once again. And I'll find there are plenty of fresh ideas to be had. If memory serves, I spotted some good ones behind "Hungry, Hungry Hippo."

And look at that. The train is now pulling into Milwaukee's new Intermodal Station and I have written a 474-word blog. The ideas are finding their way back already.

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.