Wednesday Walk: Unplugged Creativity
Welcome to the Quarantine Creatives newsletter, a companion to my podcast of the same name, which explores creativity, art, and big ideas as we continue to live through this pandemic.
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A Little Unplugging
My Wednesday Walk columns often feature tweets, articles, or videos that I’ve found interesting over the last week or so. They’re usually fairly easy to write as I used to spend a great deal of time online reading lots of interesting things, exposing myself to many points of view, and bookmarking what stood out to me. To narrow a week of reading down into two or three links was usually fairly easy.
As I mentioned on Sunday, I have started reading Wendell Berry, and at the same time, I’ve been consciously trying to be online less. Like many in my generation, I spent many hours a day unconsciously scrolling my phone without much aim or purpose, and I’m trying to be a little more deliberate in how I spend my time now.
I’ve started following my wife’s lead, who I think has always had a healthier relationship to her phone. When our kids are home, I keep my phone in a drawer in the kitchen. I permit myself to check it every 30 minutes, at the top of the hour and on the half hour. In being more purposeful about looking at my phone within a finite window, I realize that I don’t really miss having it and didn’t miss much. But I am also able to check it frequently enough that should I miss an important call or message, I can still return it in a timely fashion.
When the kids are in school and I’m working, I do keep my phone on me, but I try to be cognizant of not mindlessly scrolling. It’s been really good for my attentiveness, focus, and mood.
Apple announced their latest iPhones last week which will include a satellite connection for sending distress calls when away from the terrestrial phone network. While I like to imagine myself as Davy Crockett or John Muir, the truth is I am almost never in a position where I need to have connectivity at all times.
I used to wear an Apple Watch, but stopped about two years ago, opting to go back to my analog watch with hands. I used to like the convenience of being able to read a text message on my wrist or have a sense of how many steps I walked in a day. I’ve found that without the Apple Watch, my body tells me when I’ve been sitting for too long and need to go take a walk outside. I was outsourcing that work to a device before and am happy to be a little more in tune with what my brain and muscles are telling me.
I’m not here to judge anybody’s relationship to technology, and it’s very possible that in another week or two I may be back to my old habits, but I thought I would share what seems to be working for me at the moment. The spirit of this newsletter is about rethinking assumptions and exploring new ideas, so I share with that in mind.
Musing on Originality
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that over the summer, I built a spice rack into the wall of my RV:
When I was doing some wiring work (adding the battery monitor in the top right of the photo), I realized that this wall on my kitchen counter was actually a wiring chase with plenty of space behind it. At the same time, we were looking for a way to travel with some spices that wouldn’t fall over or spill in transit. A built-in spice rack in this area seemed to solve our problem.
I thought I was very clever, designing a rack out of oak and staining it to match the cabinetry, plus cutting into the wall and using space that would otherwise have been wasted. I was very proud of my original idea!
Well, I recently happened to come across a listing on Craigslist for another Winnebago that’s a decade older than mine. Here’s the outside of that coach:
The color scheme alone on this is amazing to me, but what really had my jaw on the floor was what I saw on an interior photo in the listing:
Look to the left of the sink. That’s almost the same spice rack that I built, except this one appears to have been factory equipment that came with the motorhome back in 1997.
I had no idea that Winnebago used to build these into their RVs and had no plan or reference photo to draw from when I created mine; I just built what seemed to make the most sense to me.
I’ve heard people say that there really are no original ideas in the world- everything is plagiarized in some way, but it’s also modified and filtered through each individual’s unique point of view to come out as something “fresh.”
Sometimes we arrive at similar conclusions (like I did with my spice rack) and sometimes we end up in very different places.
I’ll conclude this with a photo from my son’s kindergarten classroom that ties into this notion of how we view problems in different ways. Every morning at drop off, his teachers have a small activity for the students to complete on the way into the classroom. Last week’s prompt was to draw a tree.
Most students used a brown marker to make a flared trunk, then added some kind of green crown- the classic deciduous tree. My son’s is the bottom right, with the long, straight trunk and the neon green top. After he finished drawing it, he told me that his was a palm tree!
The teachers did not specify that it needed to be a certain type of tree or that it had to originate from here in the Northeast, so why not make a palm tree? We spend a fair amount of time in places like South Carolina and Florida where palm trees are common, so he filtered the question through his little lens and came up with a creative solution.
Whether you’re copying something you’ve seen elsewhere or have an original idea that you want to pursue, I hope your ideas take you someplace special this week!
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Other Wednesday Walks
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