Thank you

Thank you to all followers and subscribers of thin|silence, including those who have recently subscribed.

I just wanted to let you know it means a lot to me that you are part of this challenge to blog and doodle every day about the things that catch my attention.

It began as a challenge for a year back in 2014, but I find I just can’t stop.

Daydream believing

I is a dream-blowing giant.*
(The BFG)

The bigger your future the better your present.**
(Dan Sullivan)

As regular as clockwork, the sun rises and sets, encompassing another day.

We may sometimes take it for granted, saying, There’s always another day.

But a day is an extraordinary phenomenon in the universe, holding more than a few surprises for us, and providing many moments for dreaming.

There are plenty of practical things to be done, many ordinary tasks to be performed, but, as you feel the day’s breadth and length, its height and depth, may you also dream, and then believe your dream into being.

Dreams enable us to open a future we may never have otherwise know was possible.

Just a little stillness, gazing, silence, reading, listening can help.

*The Big Friendly Giant, from Roald Dahl’s The BFG;
**Dan Sullivan, quoted in Benjamin Hardy’s Personality Isn’t Permanent.

The itch and the scratch

Knowledge of the self is as important as knowledge of the external world.*
(Ken Robinson)

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. **

Whether all the ducks in our outer world line up or not, there comes an itch.

For those who don’t find some way of distracting themselves there’s the itch for meaning and purpose.

Then we notice there are some ducks to line up on the inside, too.

*From Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds;
**Psalm 51:6.

Grand designs

Discovering the right medium is often a tidal moment in the creative life of an individual. … Creativity can be inhibited by the wrong medium.*
(Ken Robinson)

many of us have a shot at creating experiences and projects whose effects can continue longe after we are gone**
(Victoria Labalme)

In 2006, newly arrived in Edinburgh, I sought to make connections with people and began meeting with a group of artists who would meet up over lunch to support one another.

The introductions shared what each artist used as their medium.

Then it was my turn.


People, I said.

I wasn’t really sure about this, but as I said it, I knew I liked it.

I like it even more today.

It’s not about making people, but freeing them from what constrains, not unlike the characters Michelangelo saw within the blocks of stone he selected for his art.

All of which makes me wonder, what’s your favourite medium for bringing something meaningful into the world?

*From Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds;
**Victoria Labalme, from her post for gapingvoid: Risk Forward: Victoria Labalme.

Process over inspiration

Creativity is a dialogue between the ideas and the media in which they are being formed.*
(Ken Robinson)

Great storytellers hone their craft by having the courage to tell unpolished stories.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

We must find our most flourishing environments.

Some years ago, I kept a note of all the most energising moments in a day. I didn’t sit down and concentrate to create the list, but carried it with me for about three weeks so that I could add to it when something happened that energised me.^

I would note down any or all of the following: what I was doing, why I was doing it, who I was doing it with or for, and when I was doing it – for instance, was I starting something.

What I was noticing were the experiences that were most satisfying and fulfilling to me. In noticing them, I would have the ability to make more of them happen with an increasing dexterity and knowledge.

When I reflected on my list’s noteworthy experiences I found three themes that have become my enriching environments:

To begin the day journaling as I expose myself to ideas from disparate sources: I love the idea that people who may never have a conversation in real-time for various reasons, end up having a conversation in my journal.

To begin turning these ideas into something that will be useful to others: this blog and doodle has become an expression of this as I explore possibilities; it also means bringing something into my work with others as soon as I can.

To work with people in 1:1 conversations of possibility completes my trio of enriching environments. These are not fixed experiences, but are intended to be open to surprise, for me as well as the other.

These three environments, or media as Ken Robinson would name them, can also be understood to be processes or systems.

Each has its shape and order that I can trust to produce something: I don’t have to hang around for inspiration.

I love inspiration, but it usually arrives as a result of one or more of these environments. Robert McKee identifies the work of research for a writer in a similar vein:

The mastery of story demands the invention of far more material than you can use, followed by astute choices of inclusion and exclusion. Why? Because experienced writers never trust so-called inspiration.^^

You can begin to keep your list today.

You’re looking for extremely energised experiences and you will probably notice these before or after you have been living them.

In a few weeks time, you’ll probably have twenty to thirty experiences on your list. You’re ready for the next stage.

For this, you may try the following method. Write each of your notes on a separate piece of paper and pop similar experiences into piles. Is there a phrase within each pile that summarises what it contains? If not, come up with one. What are you left with?

Do some of the themes fit together? In which case bring them together and come up with a new label. Take another look.

I tend to work with threes when it comes to things like this, being both memorable and providing complexity. Themes can be: connecting with nature, centring or grounding activities, talking with others about ideas in an open way, working deeply by yourself without interruption … .

Take these for a test run. Come up with one small articulation for each environment or medium and see how it goes in a day.

Robinson sees two dimensions to creative processes: the generative and the evaluative, anticipating John O’Donohue’s words on imagination:

The imagination has a deep sense of irony. It is wide awake to the limitation of its own suggestions and showings.*^,

Here are four questions you can ask of our experiences:

Am Is successful when I do this?
Do I do this intuitively?
Do I grow as a result of doing this?
Does this meet a need in me?

Have fun.

*From Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds;
**From Bernadette Jiwa’s What Great Storytellers Know;
^I also kept a list of things that robbed me of energy in a more than normal way;
^^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Where To Find True Inspiration;
*^From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

Reconfiguring mystery

The imagination works through suggestion, not description. … Suggestion respects the mystery and richness of a thing. All it offers are clues to its nature. Suggestion keep the mystery open ad extends us the courtesy of inviting us to see a thing for ourselves.*
(John O’Donohue)

We think we tell stories, but often stories tell us.**
(Rebecca Solnit)

There are times when we need to provide a description of who we are and what we do for others to understand.

Yet we are far more than a description, no matter how thorough.

Beyond description lies mystery.

A place of unfolding change, some think endless possibility.

It is where I hope to journey with others.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**Rebecca Solnit, quoted in Bernadette Jiwa’s What Great Storytellers Know.

Trust your dream

The imagination reveals truth in such a way that we can receive and integrate it.*
(John O’Donohue)

Never be limited by the small dreams others have for you.**
(Bernadette Jiwa’s mum)

Dreams are not goals, they’re bigger.

They’re about making your future bigger than your past and, as life isn’t over until it’s over, there’s still time.

You can wait for the right moment to come along or you can make this moment the right one.

Choosing someone to walk with you is a really good place to begin: this morning I received a message from someone choosing me as their mentor or dream-guide.

If I can help, you’re welcome to drop me a line.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**Bernadette Jiwa’s mum, quoted in her What Great Storytellers Know.

Commonplace yet unique

There is a vitality, a life-force, and energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.*
(Martha Graham)

I don’t think of it as art – I just make things I like bigger, assuming that if I like them some other people might too. Some do. Some don’t, and that’s okay too.**
(Corita Kent)

The commonplace book or commonplace is a traditional way for noting and collecting knowledge of peculiar interest to the owner. The combination of quotes, recipes, pictures, ideas and more would make each of these unique:

Each one is unique to its creator’s particular interests but they almost always include passages found in other texts sometimes accompanied by the compiler’s responses.^

It’s a visual reminder for us of all we’ve been gathering throughout our lives and have the chance to make bigger, that is, to develop and curate and make available to others.

It’s not a bad reminder to begin keeping a commonplace.

I love the thought that it’s okay to be commonplace because it’s how we make it unique that really counts.

It’s why I love my work helping people remove the blocks.

*Martha Graham, quoted in Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds;
**Corita Kent, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Corita Day;
^From Wikipedia: Commonplace book.

So many worlds

There is another world that exists only because you exist: the world of your own private consciousness, feelings and sensations. Your world is one in which, as the psychologist R. D. Laing put it, there is only one set of footprints.*
(Ken Robinson)

Experimentation, adventure and innovation lure us toward new horizons.**
(John O’Donohue)

Early in our lives, we discover that we live in our own world; some would say from the moment we begin to say “No.”

We grow our world as we move from dependence to independence, becoming a person with values and talents and energies:

What if our life skills had more value than our worldly possessions? The most content human by far is one who can create a world out of nothing.^

This world becomes a unique take on the reality of the greater world we are born into, and even if we were to put together the experiences of our species’ 7 billion worlds at this moment in time, we still wouldn’t be able to fully know the world we live in.

How we desire to grow and grow our own world but then we find it isn’t enough, or can never be complete, or reaches a point of implosion because we’re empty at our core, unless …

Unless we can grow from independence into interdependence, for which Brian Eno’s scenius offers itself as a good place to begin:

a whole scene of people who are supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, speaking ideas, and contributing ideas.^^

Which brings to mind the African proverb:

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

*From Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds;
**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
^From Keri Smith’s The Wander Society;
^^Brian Eno, quoted in Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.