Having ideas for me is easy. Ideas are just thoughts and who know where they come from, but they are impossible to stop. Turning an idea into an actual thing, executing it, manifesting it, that’s very hard. Nothing just comes, everything has to be implemented.
I have a voice in my head that plays devil’s advocate on any idea we are interested in pursuing. This analytical character loves to quickly game out our idea and get right to pointing out potential problems. While we struggle to maintain enthusiasm and even memory for the initial idea, they rapidly innumerate the pitfalls and problems we are likely to experience. Knowing us as well as we know ourselves, they are particularly adept at seeing where our weaknesses are going to come into play and reminding us how ideas didn’t work out in the past due to poor follow through and systemic indecision. There is only one way around this fellow, stop telling him anything and just get to it.
Take any part of the idea and implement something. If you want a blog, create a site on WordPress. If you want to draw, get some paper. Or even better, just draw something. On anything and hang it up where you will see it multiple times a day. Or maybe it’s a much bigger idea like turn Sidewalk Faces into a book, sell prints online, have a show. What do you do then?
The first idea, the initiating big idea, is not really a thing at all, it’s just a trail marker at the beginning of the hike. It signifies that you are at the beginning and should go forward. The good ideas come after you have taken the first action. They are more useful than the ideas the critic was responding to because those ideas were theoretical. The ideas that follow an action are much easier to implement because they are connected to something tangible. If you signed up with WordPress for a blog and then wrote a post it wouldn’t be too difficult to have an idea about a second post. And way less difficult to write it because all you would have to do is log in and go. The trick is to do the idea that has a motor behind it, the one you most truly want to do, not the one you think you should do. Not the one the critic says will add up to something.
I started this blog six years ago, before I had made my first Sidewalk Face. I didn’t know what it was for. I just wanted to write more. I wanted to see what I would write if I gave myself a place to do it. I am almost at one hundred posts! I now know what I like to write about and if I am able to conceptualize a book, I have some written content to play with. As for selling my work, I am so close. Stay tuned! Just don’t tell my inner critic what we are up to!
I spotted something that surprised me and makes me wonder how observation works. Previous to this I would have defined it as intentional, something I was trying to do, an active activity. Now I think there is a subconscious component.
I was walking the dogs at night and we passed by a house with some calla lilies in front of it. I wasn’t looking at the flowers or the house directly. I wasn’t actively looking at or for anything. I was just doing the dogs. Something compels me to turn around and check out this one flower, I sense there might be a face there. I resist a little because it’s dark so who cares. But I do it. Yup! That’s a face. I see a face. I get out my iPhone and shoot the photo below. Nothing. Let me try again. I hold very still and shoot a few more and move on.
The low light makes them crappy photographs but wow, there is someone there. How did I see this? As best I can recall, I would say my unconsciousness saw him out of the corner of my eye. I guess making faces for five and half years has built up a robust face finding perception. It can’t be turned off. Even when I think it’s off it’s not.
I suspect this works with anything we practice daily. We get so attuned to what we pay attention to that it becomes unconscious. Some people can read other people’s moods just from the way they walk in a room. Someone else sees a luscious red pepper and instantly visualizes a whole meal. I was sitting next to my dad in church as a teenager and he suddenly exclaimed and wrote something down. Very unusual for this stoic and contained man. Later he told me he’d finally solved a math problem that had been bothering him since college. Where did the answer come from? What part of him was working on it? He was a problem solver. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but an unsolved problem must have really bugged him. His brain was attracted to creating solutions. We engage with what is interesting to us. We don’t even have to try; we just do it. That’s how you know what really interests you. It is that which pulls your attention subconsciously.
It’s easier to develop observation as a skill if there is an affinity for what is being observed. My brother observes license plates. I know this because he’s always filling me in on the latest developments. He’s all excited and he’ll say, Caren, I saw a brand-new Toyota with an 8H today! And I’m like, no way dude! Tell me more! Before he started chewing my ear about it, I had never, ever noticed or thought about the sequence of numbers and letters on a license plate and they are everywhere. How many do I see a day? Hundreds? He has brought it up in conversation at least a dozen times. Because he is so passionate, his enthusiasm rubs off on me for a few days. I will notice numbers like crazy and have fun with it. But soon it all slips away because that is not what I am actually interested in.
I am less observant when I am stressed. I block out what I can’t control and don’t want to deal with like laundry that needs to be folded and empty boxes lining the hallway. If my observations are only going to add to my to do list than No Thank You. But there are things I wish I observed that I miss. Birthdays. Following up with people I care about regarding information they’ve shared. Remembering to eat the leftover mashed potatoes before they turn gross. I am pulled in so many directions, I miss things I don’t want to miss. But apparently, even in the dark, I don’t miss a face.