In many ways, it feels to me like the writing program I finished last year is a meal I’m still picking out of my teeth, but lately, I’ve noticed that many of the most important things I learned in the program have less to do with writing than living life well.

One such tidbit came from the program director, Paul Selig, who encouraged us to tune into higher frequencies. I’ve been thinking a lot about that advice the past few weeks, thoughts that began to crystalize one weekend as I stood looking out on an empty landscape in Central California where the land is so flat you can see the mountains to the east and to the west hundreds of miles away.

People don’t take vacations in Central California unless they’re visiting a casino. For travelers, it’s usually just a way-station between the Bay Area and Tahoe, but that’s exactly why I chose to stay there over President’s Day weekend. I took a vacation in Central California for the same reason people go out to the desert to look at the stars. With no other lights competing against those distant lights, it’s easier to see them.

In an episode of Stephen Fry in America, he stops in San Francisco to ask Jonathan Ive (the designer of the iPod) why he and Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the WWW), both Brits, choose to work in America. In his answer, Ive talks about the fragileness of new ideas and how the optimism of Silicon Valley helps them thrive.

Kindness to new ideas is one of the things I love about the Bay Area, but it’s easy to think that all an idea needs is optimism and a lot of hard work. Sometimes, though, a new idea isn’t fragile. It’s just quiet or far away. Just like it’s easier to hear a quiet voice in a silent room or tune a radio to the right station when the spectrum is clear, sometimes, all a new idea needs is a little space.