“You can learn a lot by watching”
Yogi Berra

Here is a fun observation exercise adapted from Twiyla Tharp and her book The Creative Habit.

My intention of sharing this adapted exercise with you is not as much about stimulating creativity as much as attending to how you do observing and what difference that makes to the meanings you make of what you see and hear…and, perhaps,even how creative you are already.

The Exercise

This weekend go someplace where you can do some people watching. Bring something to write on/with.

Choose someone or people to pay attention to and then write down everything they do until you get to 20 items.

The boy gets on the skate board, write it down. His mother says something to him. write it down. She moves her hands side to side, write it down. He looks to the right, write it down…and so on.

It shouldnt take you long to collect 20 items of observation.

Now as you read your list, notice how your imagination works creating an interpretation, a story about what you observed. This is creativity at work.

Was the mother concerned that her son would fall, maybe run into other people walking near where he was riding? Was the boy on the skate board happy and having fun, out for a day off of school, on vacation? How did you interpret what you observed?

What difference, if any, did you notice between when you were attending to only writing down observations and when you moved to attending to interpretations of what you saw?

How are they the same?

How are they different?

What else did you notice?

Now do it again and only write down those parts of your observation you find interesting. You may find it takes a bit longer to get your 20 items.

And notice what happens to your observations when you apply that filter find interesting” and how that effects both the kinds of things you notice and how you interpret them.

How was the first observation exercise the same or different to the second one?

Did you enjoy one more than the other?

Did you learn more about yourself and or other people doing one more than the other?

Is there anything else you noticed?

I would love to hear your experience with this exercise. To share, simply post a comment below.