(This is the seventh in a series of posts following Tyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. All the previous posts are collected in the Summer Blog Project category.)
Remember when I said that I would get back to this one? Well, here we go…
Pick out two people, write down everything they do until you get to twenty items. You could easily make up a story about them, but that is not the point of this exercise. Then pick out another couple. This time, only write down things that they do that you think are interesting.
Then compare the lists.
I suffered for this one. I sat in the food court at the local mall for a several hours watching people and making notes (and doodles). I felt like Harriet the Spy.
So what did I learn?
Well, watching people chew is oddly fascinating. It is a really idiosyncratic action. Everybody does it differently, chew on one side or the other, speed of chewing. I had no idea.
I find I noted the things that distracted them from what they were doing and from each other: people they watched, the sounds that made them turn. Usually the other person looked around to see what caught the first person’s attention.
It seems that the major thing that I noted was expressive hands.
People talk on their cell phones a lot. I pointedly didn’t write that down in the second list. Neither couple ignored the phone, or looked at who was calling and decided not to take the call. The phone call always trumped the person standing beside or sitting across from them. Irritating.
But I did note what the person who was not on the phone did, how they tried not to eavesdrop. In every case the ignored person seemed to deflate, how whatever was shining in them went dim. They looked at their fingernails, leaned back in their chairs, moved a step or two away.
Twyla Tharp says that if you do this regularly, that you will note patterns, that what you included or left out speaks volumes about you.
Will I do this again? I am not certain, maybe if I modify the assignment. I am not terribly interested in watching people. I like people watching, but only casually. I felt like a stalker. I felt silly following people around and staring at them.
To tell the truth, it is not people that interest me. I would rather watch animals or birds, note plants, or colors, or details in scenery or architecture. I might try it on a walk, write down everything I see, and then everything I see that is interesting.