Observation Journal: Act like it

Left page: In retrospect, an early February 2020 “feeling of anxious suspension, not beginning yet, all afternoon” may not have been solely connected to procrastination.

Right page: My sister was meant to go with my mother to see David Suchet in conversation, but at the last minute she couldn’t go, so I went. I was just taking “Five Thoughts” notes here: it was early in the observation journal and I hadn’t quite committed yet to “Five Things to Steal”, although that proved to be a more useful model.

It’s almost always worthwhile hearing a professional in any field talk about how they work — I think many points can be adapted and applied across careers, and in the case at least of writing and illustration, who knows when you might have to write or illustrate someone in that career!

A few interesting points:

  • The intersection of sheer nerve (admirable as it is!) with both an understanding of competence and actually having time to do the thing you’re asking to be involved with. This is connected to an eternally-rolling reluctant realisation that if I want to be more spontaneous I need to be more caught-up. Aka: be bold, be bold, but not too bold.
  • The reminder not to be aloof/remote about research, but to be physical and fascinated, and how the surprises of being on the ground connect to Alison Goodman’s research and Harriette Wilson’s memoirs and detective work, and other thoughts on place and story.
  • The importance of voice and walk for a character — where the impetus and centre of balance comes from for both, and how a stage lesson, taken from a written description, can translate back into art or writing. And ongoing fascinations with people deliberately adopting certain mannerisms for various good and nefarious purposes.
  • Ways to use embedded cues to give stage directions — the blatant subtlety of Shakespeare, and how to use that to steer a path between being either too obvious or too vague.
  • The ecosystem of art work — that actors need playwrights, that everyone is working to make others’ careers viable.
  • Rituals not of entry into but of emergence from a project. How to cleanly — if briefly — stop and cool down and recover. (Also how that tied into recent conversations about resilience in law and the arts.)

Intriguing points to follow up — and some I did, in teaching or elsewhere in the journal. But it also illustrates the strength of the other approach. These are mostly notes and questions. Asking “what could I make off with and make my own” forces me to choose carefully, and answer the questions, and take the first next step to adapt.

3 thoughts on “Observation Journal: Act like it

  1. Pingback: Observation journal: Plenty and time | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: July post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

  3. Pingback: Observation Journal — ways of walking | Kathleen Jennings

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