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The Artist’s Art of Observation

All Creators are First Observers

We don’t get the urge to tell stories until we’ve first been told stories. Whether it was our mother or grandmother, teacher or sibling, babysitter or friend, weaving a tale of her own, or reading to us from a fabulous book. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, or Hop on Pop or the television set, we saw or heard or read stories. We loved stories. And so we gave birth to the desire to tell stories ourselves.

From the very first urge, art begins with observation, from the desire to be a storyteller, to the contents of the stories we now tell.

Whether we draw or paint or sculpt, whether we write songs or poems or philosophical essays, or novels, or screenplays, or scripts…we create because of what we have first observed.

So observation, then, is our very first job.

All Artists Are Storytellers

Each in our own way. And we can only tell stories based on what we’ve observed. Our sum total of life experience, every single encounter of every single day of our entire lives, is what fills our bottomless wells. These are the waters we draw into us when we create.

All that experience, all that we have observed with our marvelous human senses, provides the launch point for the stories we tell. We either set our tales in worlds that are like the one we’ve known, or worlds that are as different from what we know as our imaginations can reach. But it’s what we have observed that serves as the base camp, to the mountain of story we are about to climb.

Law of Attraction Says You Get What You Focus On

But it also acknowledges that you can watch your favorite zombies on television without attracting a bunch of decomposing animated corpses with snapping jaws, into your experience. You might legitimately enjoy watching Darryl kill walkers. Or ride his motorcycle. Or breathe. And there’s not a single molecule in your entire being that isn’t 100% certain what you’re watching is not real. This is entertainment. This is fun.

But that’s not the kind of observation I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the kind you get from interacting out there in the real world. You know, the place that lies beyond the boundaries of our screens.


Notice how your car smells when you first get into it on a hot summer day. And notice it again on a cold winter’s night. It’s different, isn’t it? Notice how the seats feel, experience your hands on the steering wheel, and feel the way your car becomes an extension of you, how all of you and all of it work as one being while you’re driving. [bctt tweet=”Being fully present in our lives isn’t just a spiritual practice. It’s how we feed our creative fires. “]

Develop a New Habit

One of my earlier suggestions to you was to keep a journal, and each night before bed, to write 10 pleasant things you experienced during your day. This fabulous practice will shift the balance of your thoughts and eventually your default setting to mostly positive. And when that change happens, your life becomes so amazing you’re not even going to believe in.

Now, I’m suggesting you add a little something to this nightly journaling practice. From now on, when you’re noticing things throughout your day with the thought “there’s something to journal tonight,” stop yourself for just a second and check in with your senses. Really look at the thing, notice its shapes and shadows and colors and size. Touch it, if you can. What’s its texture? Is it warm or cold, wet or dry? Taste it, if that applies, or just notice the taste of the air, and the smell of it, too. Listen. What do you hear? And use that unnamed sense as well, the one we don’t believe in. What’s the energy like around this thing?

With practice, you can do all of this in just a few seconds. Your powerful brain will retain far more than you think it will, and it will get better and better at it. Everything you observe gets filed away for later use. But you have to hit the save button, and by pausing to check in with all your senses, you do just that.

Later, when you sit down to write ten positive things about your day, try to include as many sensory perceptions as you can recall.

Doing this has more benefits than you can yet know.

  1. This practice retrains your brain to be on the lookout for good things. And since you get what you look for, your life will get better and better.

  2. This practice trains you to pause to really observe it when something good comes into your path. And since you get what you pay attention to, this will create more good things coming into your path, and your life will get better and better.

  3. This practice feeds your creative soul, by giving you more and more images, smells, sounds, tastes, touches, feelings, to inform your art. So your storytelling, your creating, will get better and better.

  4. This practice opens the gates between fantasy and reality, which are unlocked by the most powerful of keys; our human senses and sense memories. When those gates are open, new ideas and inspiration flood into you. And your storytelling, your creating, will get better and better.

  5. Tapping into this same sensory power as you tell your stories, create your art, or market your product, will unlock the gates between fantasy and reality in your audience as well. They too will experience the magic you now wield; your readers, patrons, fans, listeners, viewers, customers… Your tribe. They will respond by wanting more of that magic, and they will tell their friends, and your tribe will grow. And so your business will get better and better.

The Assignment, Simplified

  1. Get a journal.

  2. Each night before bed, write down 10 positive things that happened that day.

  3. As you automatically begin noticing good things throughout your day for later journaling, pause to observe with all your senses.

  4. Call back as many sensory memories as you can and include them in each night’s journaling. [bctt tweet=”If you do this one simple practice consistently you’ll see positive change in your life, art, biz.”]

Hey, come on, give it a try. What do you have to lose?


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