What you are about to read is a continuation from my series, The Creative Approach.
As you may remember, the three steps to a creative approach are observe, question, and respond. Let’s tackle that first one: observe.
What does it mean to observe?
Open your eyes. Seeing those words, I can’t help but think of the opening lines in the song, “Always,” by Erasure, which is obviously about the endless struggle to be creative amidst a contrary society. Alright, it’s open to interpretation.
Where were we … oh yes, observation! So, where exactly should you begin? Why not start at your own front door? Step outside and take in the world. Take off your headphones for a minute and look up from whatever mobile device you’ve been glued to. This is more than a brief glance—let it all in.
While you’re in observation mode, don’t worry too much about trying to get something out of it. Just let things come to you as you discover them. Notice all your senses: what are the sounds, smells and even tastes? Don’t go licking light poles though, people might call the authorities on you—trust me on this one.
Consider, how do you feel when you first step outside? Refreshed by the first breath of a new day, reluctant to be shoved around in a tight crowd like cattle, dread for an oncoming storm? Is it hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or calm? What sorts of people or animals are nearby and what are they doing? What do nearby buildings or landscape features look like? All these things may seem mundane at first, but when you really stop to take notice and record, you will begin to see things you haven’t seen before.
One common struggle is to look outside oneself. We spend the vast majority of our time thinking internal thoughts about our own wants and needs and, because of it, our surroundings go unnoticed.
To be creative, you first have to appreciate your environment. Your environment is where you can draw inspiration. To be stuck inside your head all the time is to miss out. As you begin to look around, you’ll be surprised how a shift of focus will change the way you see the world.
A friend of mine recently published his first children’s book, What Do You Notice, Otis? I love how it encourages kids to pause, observe, and interact with the world around them. Sadly, this has become a neglected practice for many a person (regardless of age) today.
Observation isn’t hard, most of us have just gotten out of practice. But anyone—even a distracted, oblivious guy like myself—can do it.
For example, on my drive to work I’ve noticed many things I found peculiar: a man wearing blue latex gloves while driving his beat-up silver Honda, another guy holding his leaf blower upright and swinging it as if he were playing a guitar, a girl with a large brace on her leg following her friends who were all in fancy dresses, and a young man who didn’t appear to be homeless with a sign asking for college money. Each of those could be the makings of a good story.
Now it’s your turn; take a moment to pause and observe in the world around you, or, even better, schedule some time and find a place to so do. You might even want to take a journal along for recording purposes.
When you stop to look around, you’ll discover a world which was previously hidden to you, though it may have been right under your nose (it also helps you avoid stepping into anything … unpleasant). This will set off the sparks to ignite your creative drive and get those wheels in your head turning right round. Besides all that, you’ll find observing can be very fun (I myself am an avid people-watcher).
Here’s looking at you kid,
Hey Creatives, do you make it a point to stop and take in your surroundings? If so, what have you noticed lately? Let us know in the comments below.
Links to the rest of the series: