At this time last year, I was wandering around the Middle East and wasn’t about to take on any sort of creative commitment. This year, however, when I saw Elle Luna‘s #the100dayproject come around again, I knew I had to get in on it.
If you’re not familiar with the project, the gist of it is that you decide to do something creative for 100 days and post about it on Instagram. You create your own hashtag so that all your posts can be found easily and you use #the100dayproject so that your work can be found by others. I love scrolling through the hashtag and seeing what people are coming up with.
I wanted to do something simple that wouldn’t take me away from the work of my Drawing Project but that would also challenge me to engage every single day. I thought about doing 100 days of cartoons about my life but I was already focused on drawing and didn’t want to add to that workload. I thought about whether there were things that I wanted to do more of in my everyday life and immediately realized it had to be field notes. Of course.
Field notes are the name that I give to any sketches drawn or notes written “in the field”—the field being anywhere that isn’t at home or at work. They imply notetaking in the moment and the recording of observations. I tend to take a lot of field notes while traveling but I’ve been wanting to get into the habit in my regular life as well. I’m always coming home from walks with stories of the ‘amazing’ (at least to me) birds or flowers that I saw and I wanted to start intentionally recording these moments.
Thus began #100daysoffieldnotes. I’m on Day 9 and loving it. It’s easy enough that I don’t feel stressed about it (like other daily projects I’ve attempted), but it also makes me keep my head up and my eyes open when I’m walking around. Every time I catch myself staring at the sidewalk worrying about how anxious I feel (or some other meaningless thought spiral) I remember that I need to pay attention so I can find things to write down.
What am I writing? Anything that catches my eye and anything out of the ordinary. It doesn’t have to be wildlife, and it doesn’t have to really be that interesting. Today I saw three bananas at the foot of a light pole, yesterday I saw three cats on one block. Last week I went for what was supposed to be a short walk and spent 30 minutes stalking woodpeckers, juncos, and robins, taking notes the whole time. Sometimes I record sounds, sometimes smells, and sometimes I sketch whatever is in front of me when I have a minute—yesterday it was empty seats on the bus.
Why pay attention to bananas and cats and empty seats? Because paying attention, as I’ve written about before, builds creativity. When I announced the project, my mom posted this quote from Edward de Bono on my Facebook page and it couldn’t be more accurate: “One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.”
What things are you taking for granted? What are you passing by each day without noticing? What creative connections are you missing, what ideas are you ignoring?
If you want to practice the art of taking field notes—the art of paying attention—join me in my workshop this Sunday at the Edmonton Resilience Festival. It’s called Creative Adventuring: Finding Inspiration in your Everyday Surroundings. We’ll spend some time wandering around outside, noticing everything that we can and collecting notes, sketches, photos, and artifacts. Then we’ll come together, using what we found to create a collaborative art piece.