Quiet times and thinking things

My thinking beach
My thinking beach

I follow the blog of marketing coach Jim Connolly and find that his posts generally ring very true for me. A very recent post ‘I’m off on a thinking trip – A “thinking trip”?’ about a trip he was making so that he could refresh his ideas got me thinking – funnily enough.

Although I have never conciously gone on a ‘thinking trip’ I do have ways I use in order to get the quiet time I need for thinking and working out new ideas.

When I was younger I was lucky enough to have a pony of my very own ( I was 16 and paid for her myself but thats another story), the hacks we went on through the countryside became my quiet thinking time though it wasn’t until after I lost her a couple of years later that I realised this. Boy did I miss those times once I realised how much I had been using them to think things through, not just art based stuff but things in my life.

Ever since then I have been working to get those times back and over the years I think I have found a few ways.

  • Dog walking has sort of replaced the horse riding, it is something I do every day either on the beach or to and from work (depending on the weather and what I’ve got on that day). Its usually at least 20 minutes and its often enough time to digest information I have been given, think things through or work on the spark of an idea. Also just looking at the way things change or collecting things on the beach can spark ideas.
  • Monotonous tasks help with occupying one side of the brain so the other can think. Many moons ago when I was at university I worked in the holidays at a little company who cast model soldiers in white metal (mainly Britains figures). My job was to clean the castings of the excess pieces of metal that came from the two part moulds and the sprues. Once you knew what to look for on each figure the work became a little monotonous. For a lot of people it would, to coin a phrase, ‘do their head in’. I, however, discovered that it released a part of my mind and allowed me perfect thinking time. Part of my brain was occupied and the other part could think freely. I have found other tasks that allow my brain to do the same thing, mainly hand planing and sanding, I just have to watch that I don’t ‘zone out’ when I’m working on machines!
  • The time just before you nod off to sleep. Last thing at night just before I go to sleep can be very good ideas time as my brain seems to connect things that just don’t really go together and come up with something new. The drawback with this one can be the fact that I’m often too tired to write it down, or I fall asleep before I can write it down and I have to hope that I can remember it in the morning!
  • Visits to family can prove very good thinking time as I tend to relax a lot (they all encourage me to sleep) and relaxing definetly helps the brain to start running through things. I guess this is the closest I get to a ‘thinking trip’ as I’m in a different environment and doing different things than I usually do every day.

I’m sure I have other times that I use for thinking, mostly when part of my brain is completely occupied, I just can’t think of them right now.

Its nearly time for bed and I have some ideas to be getting on with!

What things do you do when you need to think?

Focus, focus and yet more focus

Ideas prompt bag and beech tiles
Ideas prompt bag and beech tiles

In the coming couple of months I have two shows with the Sussex Guild (of which I am a member, more on these as they occur) and an exhibition with 3 other artists locally; my first ever art show as far as I can remember. I have also found another couple of exhibitions that I would like to submit some work to to see if it gets accepted, a slightly different direction from most of the work that I currently do.

I do often have a hard time concentrating as I am easily distracted, I have a good flow of ideas and they have the ability to pull me away from what I am working on to ‘just try it to see if it works’. So I spend quite a bit of my time trying to focus in on what I’m doing. I have learned to write my ideas down and maybe do a little working on paper, but more than that I try not to do. I do, however, find it quite difficult.

The awkwardness comes when I then need to produce work for a show or exhibition as I just don’t know which idea to pick first – I know not a bad situation to be in, I’m not complaining honest! Thing is I can then spend ages weighing up the pros and cons of each without actually getting anything done, not helpful when you have deadlines approaching.

So the other day I came up with a bit of an idea which may or may not work (once I’ve used it for a while I’ll know, if I don’t use it I guess that will speak volumes too!). I had some very fine offcuts from a few beech frames I made the other day, usually when the offcuts are that thin they just end up in the burning box as they make excellent kindling for our fire. Something told me to put these to one side, I had no inkling why at the time.

For some reason I decided that I need the decision taking out of my hands – I can be incredibly indecisive and that is one of my biggest time wasters – and then the idea popped into my head to have small pieces of something with words on that could prompt the direction I would take with the work. Immediately I thought of those pieces of beech.

I got them home then realised I had nothing there to cut them with – a pair of pruners later and I had a little pile of small pieces of beech waiting for their words. To start with I put on words that popped straight into my head, things that are inspiring me at the moment but I also included things that I could possibly make. I have left these words as open as I can giving myself ultimate room to move. I then went through my current two sketch books and wrote down words that correspond with the ideas contained within, hopefully if I take one of those tiles out of the bag I’ll relate back to the sketch books, but nothing is a certainty!

My first thought was that the container the tiles are in should be something that I already have (trying to save time here – making progress I think), I tried a sock ( I have socks on the brain at the moment as will be seen in the future in some work I have planned) but I couldn’t get to the tiles very easily. Then I found a bag I had crocheted many moons ago and they fit in there very well as can be seen in the photo above. I can also carry this bag with me very easily so that I can constantly add to the tiles when I think of a new inspiration.

All I have to do now is start using it.

Luckily tonight I’ve been getting on with some designs for a few new Art Nouveau frames. I have some that I am happy with, the hard part will be deciding which one to try first.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

What methods do you use to help you focus?