HackSpace magazine

The subtle art of noticing

By Dr Lucy Rogers. Posted

How many times have you lost your keys ‘somewhere’ in your house? Or your glasses? Or, you can’t find the scissors? And you’re sure you had the tape-measure moments ago – but it’s now disappeared.

Other than making (or buying) a gismo that attaches to your important items, the answer is, apparently, to visualise it – rather than verbalise it. Imagine what the keys look like, rather than saying “where are my keys?”
However, I am not great at visualising an object in my mind’s eye. I get a sort of semi-transparent and ethereal thing. What do you get? Try to imagine a red star. Do you get a solid, bright, five-pointed shape, rotating in a GIF-type manner? Or is it 2D and coloured in with crayon? Or is it Betelgeuse – the slightly orange pinpoint of light on Orion’s shoulder in the night sky? Or, do you see nothing at all? My visualisation is the ghost of a Christmas tree decoration that we had when I was a child.

As the ‘just visualise’ it technique can be challenging, I go for the ‘what colour is it?’ technique. My tape-measure is orange. When I know I am looking for something orange, all the orange things pop out at me – that handle on the G-clamp, the label on the glue – and, oh look, poking out from under that pile of offcuts, it’s the tape-measure!

I suspect the same technique happens with other things too. Every morning I post a photo of something I have spotted in nature with a ‘Good Morning’ tweet. Knowing that I want to send such tweets makes me keep my eyes open for potential photographic subjects. I am sure I have seen flowers and insects I would never have noticed otherwise.

But it also works on not such nice things. For example, crisp packets had been left littering the footpath through my local meadows. After a couple of times walking past them and being disgruntled at the litter-louts, I took a bag, and next time I passed them, I picked them up and threw them in my own bin. However, now I am noticing litter EVERYWHERE. I need to ‘reframe’ what I look for. If I don’t want to just see unfinished projects or DIY that needs to be done, I need to start looking at the jobs I have finished, the things I have made, and celebrate those!

Now, what shall I focus on next? But first … where did I put my glasses?


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