#58: [Connecting Ideas] (2020)

#58: [Connecting Ideas] (2020)

Editing this year's articles down to the core ideas and wondering where they connect

Happy Holidays! I’m Bryan and this is my newsletter on walking, art, photography, creativity, mindfulness, and how they all intersect!

I’ve been sharing articles on the internet since 2003. That’s a long time. At first I would blog about links, and at one time I had a weekly feature called ‘The Digest’ where I would roundup links. When Twitter arrived in 2008, most of my link sharing shifted there since that’s the place for news. But as anyone that bothers to look at analytics knows, nobody really clicks on links, so it’s kind of pointless, which is why you should always include the killer quote or do a tweet thread with your thoughts.

Part of the reason I keep sharing on Twitter is that I use it as a form of public bookmarking, a way to show what I’m thinking about. I also always bookmark and label articles in Google Keep which might not be the best bookmarking or note taking app but works for what I need to do.

I’ve been sharing links in this newsletter for almost two years now, and one of the challenges I’ve encountered is how to integrate and organize the links in each issue. At times they have been heavy with the links and quotes. Other times it’s been just a series of links at the bottom. I think the best posts are when you can incorporate the links and quotes into your own work. An example would be my recent ‘music from trees’ post.

It’s all related though! Over the years, I’ve realized that one of the core beliefs I have is that walking is about making connections. We physically connect with the landscape and the people we encounter. Walking also provides us the time to think and make connections between memories, information and ideas. It’s all about connecting! Huge if true, right?

Over the last couple of years I’ve landed on trinity of topics that have guided my interest and projects.

  • Walking (Nature, health, NYC History)
  • Creativity (art, photography, media)
  • Mindfulness (mental health, spirituality, the universe)

Nearly everything I do and share falls under one of those categories and subcategories. And I believe to my core that the interaction of those three can help us solve a lot of problems, and who knows, maybe solve some of life’s riddles.

From a more practical perspective, I do believe a core purpose of art is to make connections between ideas in order to show us something in a new way or with a new insight. There’s a correlation between what we consume, the inputs, and what we eventually create, the outputs. They work together, and sometimes in surprising ways.

I’m interested in discovering how these ideas can mix together and stimulate new ideas, and connections. That’s exciting! One of my favorite new sites this year is Ness Labs. They have a lot of great articles on neuroscience, productivity, note taking and metacognition (thinking about thinking.) They have made me think differently about how I process notes, and how to turn those notes into ideas, those ideas in articles (I’m getting there!)

Over the last few years, I’ve been working on developing a system of processing notes and ideas, especially the relationship between what I observe and think in the field and how that connects back to my studio work. Synthesizing the data and experiences from the walks has been my biggest challenge. I think because there’s so much new information, the path is not clear yet, but I’m getting there, much closer than when I first started writing. Reading and research are a big part of that equation and I know I can improve how I incorporate these ideas into my work.

Starting in January, I’m going to experiment with a new monthly feature called ‘Connecting Ideas’ in this newsletter. Each month I’m going to dedicate an issue to making an effort to connect four ideas from articles (or books!) that I’ve read during the month. Building a ritual helps me learn, and I have already been doing this to some degree with how I organize and develop my notes and ideas. My goal is that through this process, you’ll pick up something new. Perhaps the connections won’t make sense but will spark a memory, or connect to something you’ve been thinking about.

To test out how this might work, I decided to pull articles that I’ve saved from the last two years to see what text and ideas I would extract and remember. It’s a fascinating exercise. Which part of the text crystalizes the idea so succinctly it can be used as a pull quote?

Below is the list that I started with.

“veteran trees that “send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings.” - The Social Life of Forests
map the Idea Adoption Curve against a “Willingness-to-Pay Curve” - The Idea Adoption Curve
“the artists were both “crazier” and “saner” than the non-artists.” - Artists Are More Anxious Than People in Other Professions—But They Are Also Better at Coping With Challenges, a New Study Finds
Solarpunk is a rejection of dystopic fears and a return to hope, not as a con-trick, but as a construct. - Beyond Cyberpunk: Towards A Solarpunk Future
more parks mean more business - Cities turn to urban forests to combat climate change
a major part of creativity is making sure that what you’re creating is effective. - New Study Reveals Similar Creative Process For Artists, Engineers And Scientists
These are experimentalists. These geniuses figure it out as they go along, piecing together their ideas through trial and error. - There Are 2 Types of Genius and One Doesn't Reveal Itself Until Middle Age
Regular experience of novelty is essential to a long, happy life. - The Importance of Novelty
The best artists, musicians, athletes, CEOs, and entrepreneurs don’t merely work a lot, they work a lot on developing specific skills. - Lessons on Success and Deliberate Practice from Mozart, Picasso, and Kobe Bryant
By building from the bottom up based on what works for you, rather than enforcing top-down rules and regulations, you will slowly develop a system you can stick with. - Tear It Up and Start Again
Simply being yourself makes a better impression than catering to another person’s interests and expectations. - Research: It Pays to Be Yourself
Do the real thing and stop doing fake alternatives. - Do the Real Thing
Motion will never produce a final result. Action will. - The Mistake Smart People Make: Being In Motion vs. Taking Action
Your goal is likely to reach you along familiar or preexisting channels - The 10-Day Miracle Challenge
the more steps people accumulated over the course of the month, the higher their self-rated sleep quality was during that time. - How Walking Might Affect Our Sleep
online communities at the intersection of content curation and knowledge management. - The rise of community-curated knowledge networks
Look for ways to cross-pollinate your interests, combine them, or apply lessons from one field to another to create something unique or position yourself in a unique way. - What To Do When Your Career Doesn’t Match Your Interests
Gardening increases well-being and longevity - The world’s longest-living people share this hobby—why studies say it can help add years to your life
When we're walking, we stimulate the brain in many, many ways, and this then leads to our brain being able to pick up information. - Why Walking Matters
the generation effect shows that we remember information better when we create our own version of it. - Taking raw notes is useless

Based on that last one, I knew I needed to hand write these notes. My handwriting is still terrible. It probablly won’t get better but I enjoy the process enough to keep experimenting.

Now I have notes taped up all over my studio (apartment) to remind me of some of the ideas. After I put all them down on paper, I sat with them for a few days, mixing them together to see which would stick out.

I decided to narrow it down to the top 8 because that’s all that would fit on my 18x24 sheet. Now I have this hanging on my wall.

After looking at it for a day, I was concerned my aesthetically unappealing handwriting and the bad lighting (tips please!) might not be effective at trasmitting the information, so I tried a cleaner method using Canva (mediocre design skills too but templates!)

Here are the top 8 paired with some random photos from my archive.

I hope you make some connections and pick up some ideas. We’ll see how this feature evolves next month! And next week I plan on sharing some of my own ideas that have been hung up on my walls this year.

I’m an artist/photographer, writer and pedestrian in New York City. This my newsletter on art, walking, and mindfulness. Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter