Carry a notebook wherever you go

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Carrying a notebook wherever you go can change how you interact with the world. When you make notes or sketch anything that catches your eye, you start to pay closer attention to your surroundings. Your senses for spotting small unusual things become sharpened because you’re training yourself to take notice. This skill of mining your everyday life for inspiration feeds back into your art making practice and allows you ultimately think more creatively.

In 1903 the writer Jack London gave advice still is as relevant today “Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” Making a note on your phone isn’t the same as the experience of pencil on paper and won’t seal in the memory as strongly. In a digital world, the notebook is a safe space to collect all the weird and unexplainable interesting thoughts and things you encounter.

Rule one of a notebook: don’t judge the importance of what you write down. Who knows what it could spark in the future: ideas, poems, sketches, paintings, collages, songs or any other creative endeavour. Write it down.

Using a notebook allows you to get curious about your world, which is something London also encourages: “Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.”

Making art reveals hidden whispers

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

What patterns or signs are quietly popping up in your everyday life? Do you keep seeing or hearing the same things but haven’t yet connected the significance? Perhaps it’s just coincidence or perhaps it’s a silent message that only you can interpret. Making art helps you to pay closer attention to your surroundings, mining it for inspiration and help discover hidden treasures that might spark an idea.

Jim Carrey in the mini documentary I Needed Color says “Something inside you is always telling a story. I believe every single thing you see and hear is talking to you.” What is your world telling you? What tiny whispers are repeatedly catching your attention? Making art reveals these whispers or patterns in a physical way and allows us to reflect on our world more viscerally. This ultimately creates more meaning for our daily lives as we reflect on what we find interesting and perhaps even meaningful.

Carrey sums it up with “I love being alive and the art is the evidence of that.”

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.