In defense of not taking action

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connction

What if not taking action in the form of forced decisions and ‘busy-work’ for the sake of feeling productive, is actually the best thing you could do right now? Instead of the hustle and forced striving, you went with the flow and followed your curiosities gently, with no sense of rush?

Reading, dreaming, talking about your area of interest is all focus and holds so much power. We underestimate the value in thinking more consciously about how you want to show up in the world and what you want to create. It’s enough to be present and gently focusing. When it’s time to take action, it will feel exciting and you’ll do it naturally.

What could we create is there were no limits or rules and the goal was to follow your joy and pass that message onto others?

“You might spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end – except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble virtue of inquisitiveness. And that should be more than enough for anyone to say that they lived a rich and splendid life.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic. 

Introversion and recharging your batteries

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connction

In Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The power of Introversion in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she explains the differences Carl Jung defined between introversion and extroversion. “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling… extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being along; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

It’s often a misconception that introverts will hide away while extroverts are the life of the party. But it’s not about how comfortable you seem socially, it’s about how your energy gets depleted and how you restore it. In an over-stimulated extroverted world where extroverted qualities are encouraged, it’s helpful to know how you get the most drained from your everyday life. The introvert restoration process is a kind of incubation from life – the desire to retreat, to go inward and spend time alone. It can be seen as unsocial but it’s from this retreating process that your energy bars become restored. As Charles Bukowski puts it, “People empty me. I have to get away to refill.”

With many artists creating work on their own, sometimes completely solitary, the skill of drawing from within yourself and making meaning of your world internally is a deep well of inspiration. Cain explains that “Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions – from the theory of evolution to Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer – came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in two there in the world and the treasures to be found there.”

Michaela Chung in The Year of the Introvert, speaks of her introversion as being a valuable tool for success: “I see that I needed time to grown my inner toolkit so that I could handle the responsibilities and stresses that come with each new level of success.” In a western world that makes a comparison between work and ‘a rat race,’ and ‘hustling’ feels like wearing a badge of honour, slowing down and reflect is becoming evermore important. “Slow down and take your time – the finish line keeps moving until you’re dead; so, you see, there is really no need to rush.”

Not all flowers blossom where and when you want them to. Some plants can only grow under certain conditions… It is the same for introverts. Often, we simply can’t blossom in the soil where we have been planted. To truly come into our own, we need to seek out more solitude and less constant busyness; more meaning and less going through the motions. – Michaela Chung

Even Oprah Winfrey, one our most iconic modern role-models, identifies as an introvert. In her podcast interview with Amy Schumer (March 22, 2018) she shared “I’ve been at parties where I have to get up and leave. I’m just in the bathroom.” The bathroom becomees a place to recharge, a brief rest from the energy-draining experience parties can be. Schumer agrees “[I] Love to hide in the bathroom! Yeah, people are confused about, y’know but how could you get up in front of so many people? I say it’s different and I think when you’re so giving of yourself and your mind and everything, you need to take a break.”

Giving yourself the gift of recharging in whatever way works for you, will ultimately make you a more giving individual.

Picasso and everything is research

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connction

A turning point in Picasso’s career was when he started to paint more of what he felt, instead of what he saw. Or to “Learn to be clumsy again and get back to basics.” This approach to art-making feels much less restrictive, with the journey being more important than making a ‘finished piece.’ In the book Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973: Genius of the century by Ingo F. Walther Picasso said that “Enthusiasm is what we need most, we and the younger generation.” If you have enthusiasm, you’re more likely to continue to make art and reap the creative benefits.

“Paintings are nothing but research and experiment. I never paint a picture as a work of art. Everything is research. I keep researching, and in this constant inquiry there is a logical development. That is why I number and date all my paintings.”

This idea of everything you make is an experiment – and therefore ‘mistakes’ are a vital part of the process – allows you to create with much more freedom. There are no rules when it comes to making art. Picasso was in favour of the unknown: “If you know exactly what you’re going to do, what’s the good of doing it? Since you know, the exercise is pointless. It is better to do something else.” Allow yourself the gift of making ‘bad art.’ Get clumsy like Picasso and don’t worry if the image in your head isn’t matched up with what you’ve made. Repeated consistent practice is the cure for improvement but that requires you to first get comfortable with being uncomfortably ‘bad’.

“There is never a time when you can say: I have done a good job and tomorrow is Sunday. As soon as you stop, you have to start again. You can leave a canvas aside, saying you won’t touch it again. But you never come to ‘The End’.”

There is no end and everything is an experiment so create something bad. Blind drawings are a good starting exercise to help you loosened up.

We need to connect more

“We need to connect more. We choose not to. It’s a choice, everything’s a choice. That’s what we’re choosing to do. We’re choosing not to. We’re in a Tinder world, a throw-away world. A world where actually deep connection is something that’s almost becoming avoided just because there is so much able connection that isn’t really with meaning. Those things are compromising us as human beings.”

– Emma Kenny, interview on Under the Skin Podcast #40: How to Be Spiritually Healthy in Damaged Times

How to mine your daily life for snippets

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Snippets are different from quotes. They are a words or small sentences that peak your curiosity. Words can be collected from everyday life in the form of signs, shops, windows, labels, graffiti and posters or from art such as books, magazines, websites, audio, tv, movies and online. Anything you see or hear. Coleman Barks said “When I was twelve years old, I kept a little notebook of words that I loved: azalea, halcyon, jejune. I just liked the taste of them… I just love lively language wherever it occurs.” Austin Kleon created a journal for creative kleptomaniacs, “This journal is designed to get you looking at your world like an artist, always “casing the joint,” always collecting ideas, always looking for the next bit of inspiration to lift – to turn you into a creative kleptomaniac.”

You will need: a notebook or paper and pen/pencil

  1. Carry a notebook wherever you go
  2. Write down anything you find interesting.

Even conversations can be a source of inspiration, either from people you know or from strangers. Listen gently but not obsessionally. This works best with people walking away from you so that you only hear a tiny piece of their conversation. It’s also less voyeuristic and creepy that way.

“The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You’re there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see – every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.” Graham Greene.

Any snippet could spark an idea, get you thinking about a project or serve as an abstract journal. For instance if you’re on holiday and overhear something interesting, writing it down could later transport you right back to that moment (add a note of where you were to help retain the memory). Snippet collecting creates more engaged with your surroundings because you notice every day delights that normally may be invisible.

“… crafty way of blending in / Try to make it swaggy. / …trotted out like a prize bull / Tooling around / By crickey / Blithering blowholes!” – various snippets collected June 2018

The biggest rule of collecting snippets? Don’t judge what you find interesting or censor yourself writing it down because who knows what it might spark in the future. Regularly seeing the small may just surprise and delight you in the process.

Collaging and cutouts by Matisse

The Sparkle Experiment Matisse Cutouts collage

The cut-outs by Henri Matisse are some of his most colourful and playful work, made simply with paper and scissors. He even created some art from bed as his health deteriorated. It’s inspiring that he continued to make art into his 80’s and right up to the very end and was still doing it with such passion and commitment.

“During the last decade of his life Henri Matisse deployed two simple materials—white paper and gouache—to create works of wide-ranging color and complexity. An unorthodox implement, a pair of scissors, was the tool Matisse used to transform paint and paper into a world of plants, animals, figures, and shapes… He described the process of making them as both “cutting directly into color” and “drawing with scissors.” – MoMA explaining Matisse’s process

The Sparkle Experiment Matisse Cutouts collage

In Matisse A Cut Above the Rest as part of BBC The Culture Show 2014, his work was referred to as “Simple, almost childish, blazing with colour,” and “He had the audacity of simplicity.”

The simplest of ideas is usually the best. We tend to over-complicate, wanting things to be more complex in order to be ‘good’. Danielle Krysa in her book Collage, reminds us “You don’t need any fancy equipment or a workshop full of tools – every household has a pair of scissors and some glue or adhesive tape. In the book she interviewed Anthony Zinonos, who spoke of a special relationship with his tools: “My scissors and glue have become my best friends, they never judge me.”

The Sparkle Experiment

Spending time moving paper around with no final outcome in mind can be very meditative. It creates an intuitive, loose method working as nothing has to be fixed in place until you’ve settled on a final look. Even then you can take a photo of the arrangement and not commit to sticking it permanently which is perfect if you change your mind a lot!

Start small: Pick a few colours, cut some basic shapes and have a play. Either use a timer to force quicker decision making so once the time is up, the work becomes finished by default. Or use the intuitive method of feeling when it’s ‘done.’ There are no rules when it comes to collage.