We Are Fashioned by What We Love

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I would like to pick up the thread from the post Diversify and Become More Creative I wrote two weeks ago. There I pointed to the value of collecting dots – and then connecting the dots – from a variety of sources. By dots I mean whatever may inspire us as creative persons, not only known dots or dots we already cherish, but particularly dots from outside of our vocabulary so to speak; dots that are far out from our usual likes and our usual comfort zone and even opposing our customary world view. Yes, particularly that! The more deviating dots; the more creative connections may we develop, and the more new and original ideas may we eventually develop.

In a way, you can see the artist as a collector of ideas and sources. Wherever you see an idea that you like, see something that triggers you; collect it. Whenever you get an idea yourself; write it down. Your job, if you do creative work at whatever level that is, is to collect ideas. The more ideas you collect, the more you can chose from to be influenced by. Of this, of course, follows that you need to be able to write down ideas whenever they occur. Don’t wait till you get «home», by then it will all be forgotten. I don’t know how many brilliant ideas I have lost in oblivion only to see another person bring the same idea to life some time later. If I had only written it down right away before it went into the big sack of forgotten ideas! So, yes, I have definitely learned my lesson.

Thus, carry a notebook and a pen with you wherever you go. Get used to pulling it out and jotting down your thoughts and observations. Copy your favourite passage out of books. Record overheard conversations. Doodle when you are on the phone. Do you see a photograph in a magazine you like? Cut it out and glue it into the notebook. Put copies of your own photographs in there, too. Go to whatever length to make sure you always have paper on you. And if that sound like a cumbersome or unrealistic idea to you, use your cell phone as a notebook. That’s what I have been doing the last couple of years.

By now my cell phone is so full of notes that I have had to transfer them to my computer on a regular basis. For me the cell phone is just a practical and handy tool for this, since I always bring it along. Nevertheless, I still have to admit there is a special feeling to an old fashion notebook made of paper. It’s almost as it brings about more inspiration by just being what it is. If you want to see something spectacular in this direction, pick up one of the photo books by Peter Beard. They are all based on his extraordinarily beautiful notebooks.

Your collection of ideas and inspirations will become your family of stimuli. Whereas you don’t get to pick your genetic family, you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you watch. The things is, you are or become a mash up of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer, philosopher and artist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: «We are shaped and fashion by what we love.»

I love nature in all it’s variety. I love the smell of rain. I love listening to Peter Gabriel; and Of Monsters and Men (a band from Iceland). I love films by Luc Besson – in particular his Angel-A. I love work by Gilles Peress and Brooke Shaden (just to mentioned few photographers – very few that is). I love travelling. I love the writings of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love tzatziki. I love teaching.

What do you love and what are you influenced by?


104 thoughts on “We Are Fashioned by What We Love

  1. i love beauty and try to create my surroundings in a way that makes me smile, i’m going to get a digital recorder to carry around with me to put ideas into 🙂 good thinking

  2. I make my living with computer technology but there is nothing like a notebook with paper pages to feel connected to the creative process. I an never without one in my bag.

  3. I don’t necessarily write down creative ideas, but I have been using an A4 notebook(s) for years. My poor short-term memory makes this absolutely essential. I write down names, flower names in particular (if I see one I might want). I write down quotes (off other people’s blogs, movies….whatever). I write down camera settings, countries, cultures, foods, locations and I just wrote down ‘Gilles Peress’ and ‘Brook Shaden’ to Google. I don’t know their work.

    I look up where people are from (and even on Google Earth to see what sort of landscape is around their location for photographic purposes). I write down Festival Dates (so I can visit if I’m free – to take photos). I write down cameras types (if I read some good reviews) – just in case I might want to change or buy. I also write down negative points.

    l also put bookmarks on pages of interesting passages in books so I can refer to them. No wonder I’m always misplacing my vast collection of bookmarks.

    Nothing beats paper & pen. I notice David duChemin carries around notebooks everywhere on his photography trips to note or journal his day.

  4. I love to travel and I’m inspired by the different people I meet and the different places I get to explore. When I see or find something that inspires me I do try to write down right away. This was a terrific post Otto.

  5. I do try to note down things that touch/interest/inspire me, but I’m a bit sporadic in this. Sometimes I remember to carry a notebook, I agree that there’s nothing like pen and paper. But I need to start collating my jumble of scribblings!

  6. I love to love and feel loved. I love history of art. I love listening to my parents on the phone, talking their things. I love watching them dancing. I love to share thoughts with my husband and know his opinion. I love to think that he is in this world. I love to listen to a song and think it was made specially for me. And then realise that we all are so similar. I love the sound of the waves. I love the sky and the clouds…

  7. I always carry a notebook, one that I love because of its cover…currently I am using one from the V&A’s “Masterpieces of Chinese Painting” with subtly-toned oriental designs. I am rather obsessed with notebooks and pencils….but that’s another story! I am inspired by words: from the poetry of Dylan Thomas that resonates still, to the prose of Jim Crace, Barbara Kingsolver and Shakespeare. I am inspired by music: from the lyrical, tuneful Beatles to the glorious, ascending concertos of Vivaldi and Smetana. I am inspired by the sky, the sea….I just love life and everything around me!

    1. I really like how you describe your relationship to your notebook – and you make me interested in checking out the one from V&A. So far poetry has never caught my attention. I guess that should become one of my new dots in the future – something outside of my present day vocabulary. Maybe start with Dylan Thomas? Otherwise, thanks for sharing your dots, Mary.

  8. I’ve always been a fan of the notebook. There are dozens of them around my house and when I come across one I will stop and start looking through it remembering things I had forgotten. At some point when I was commuting for long periods of time I switched to a tape recorder in my car because I couldn’t write while driving. Some of my most creative moments have come while driving. Now that I don’t commute anymore I think I will have to pick up a notebook.

    1. Well, of course you could start driving on a daily basis again… But jokes aside, I would think it will be a good idea to pick up the notebooks again, particularly since you already have a pleasant experience using them. Thanks for commenting, Michelle.

  9. I love and am inspired by the wonderful diversity in the world; a giant treasure chest of beauty and curiosities and picaresque characters and beliefs and cultures and magic.

  10. A smashing article as always Otto. I keep a notebook in the car, I have one in my camera bag. I too use my phone. I love the Goethe quote. I predominantly photograph the Cornish landsacpe which I have loved since I was a child. This is where I find my inspiration. I’ve recently been involved in a project that has produced very different photographs in terms of subject but they were once again related to my Cornish connection that goes back such a long way and I think once again, this comes through in the images. I’ll be posting on this project soon.
    When we look at the photographs that produce an emothional response in us they are invariably by photographers who know and love their subject and they’ve found a way of conveying this passion in an individual way. I think this is what we have to strive for as photographers so whatever our passions, whatever moves us, whatever inspires us will find a way into our work and it’s good to really understand what those things are. A very enjoyable and helpful post Otto.

    1. I can only wholeheartedly agree with you, Adrian. Only what we know by heart and with the heart, will transform into art that may touches others as well. I know your Cornish connection – and I know very well how beautifully and passionately you transform that landscape into captivating images. Thanks for sharing where you come.

  11. I, too, tuck notebooks in obscure places so they are always handy. My best ideas come to me on bike rides, so I often slip a piece of paper and a pen into a little bag attached to my handle bars. My camera, in many ways, is a notebook. I collect photos that have little artistic merit, but contain the seed of an idea – a texture, a color combination, a shape. Thank you for this reminder to be more intentional in finding streams for the pool of ideas!

    1. It’s a good idea to have a bit of paper on attached to the handle bars of your bike. I might have to copy that idea. Thanks for sharing your way of keeping track with ideas that pop up in your mind, Colleen.

  12. As I delve more and more into photography, I find inspiration from so many places. This coupled with my husbands desire to add painting to his art, really has me looking for the different idea. We always go through art galleries, but the past couple of months in Jackson really had us both looking, and observing.

    1. I think working together as you and your husband does, is a good way to create an inspiring environment. As for myself I always enjoy being able to photograph alongside with other photographers. Thanks for sharing your world in this respect, Mary.

  13. Funny you mention writing things down….I always say “I should write this down because I’d like to go back to this place and take a photo of this” and then I don’t and forget. Along with all the art out there that inspires me, my own drive and determination inspires me the most odd as it sounds. I’m bound and determined to overcome my adversities and keep moving forward and learning. Photography is one of the most positive, healing things I’ve ever embraced.

    1. I think anyone embracing the creative process will find its healing power. And I certainly don’t find it odd that your own drive is inspiring. On the contrary, not the least knowing your work from your blog.

  14. The image you started your post with is beautiful. Thank you so much for another good teaching article, Otto. I’ve just recently started carrying a small notebook and pen around with me, and leave a couple around the house just in case, because I have, like you mentioned, lost many a good idea or buried it somewhere in my memory (where it doesn’t do me any good!). I’m going to sit down and make a list of things I love. It will be interesting to see where that leads. 🙂

  15. A small notebook works perfectly for me, especially the Moleskine 😀 Goethe was right! Thank you for enlightening post! I can tell you that I love ocean and sunny days, my partner and my dogs, scuba diving and photography..oh, I am afraid I love many things, especially those that bring positive energy!

  16. Quello che più mi piace è la natura e tutto ciò che ne fa parte, anche se cerco di fotografare un po’ di tutto. Quando qualche cosa attira la mia attenzione non resisto e devo scattare qualche foto 🙂
    Sempre preziosi i tuoi consigli, ti ringrazio molto caro Otto.
    Ciao, un grande saluto. Patrizia

  17. I’ve been a writer of poetry for many years so carrying my notebook is normal.I feel lost without one. I like the idea of the pictures in a notebook, may start doing that.
    And anyone that likes Of Monsters & Men (one of my top bands) is a good man 🙂

    1. Thank you for that complement. That’s a new one. But it’s a great band, isn’t it! Yes, I would believe writing poetry would be almost impossible without taking notes whenever ideas happen. Like it would be impossible to photograph without carrying a camera. Thanks, Lynne.

  18. Very good suggestion for collecting ideas or dots by taking notes. I am not good at taking notes thinking I will remember them. In fact, I forget most of them as you mentioned. Your suggestion of using cell phones which today smart phones should help out quite a bit. I think I will try to capture some ideas that I come across with phone.

  19. I make many notes on my phone because it is convenient to do so. But I prefer writing my thoughts or ideas in a notebook as I find that they flow better from head to pen/paper this way. Plus I can draw (albeit poorly) to illustrate some of these ideas.

    I love many things including dark chocolate, thunderstorms and whisky (as well as all three together!)

    1. I feel the same, that the creative idea is spurred but the head through the hand to the paper. But, yes, it’s just more convenient with the cell phone. Since I am a whisky lover too, I have to ask you what kind you like?

      1. Hi Otto, I am not a fan of strong peaty ones in general. I like what I’ve tried so far from the Japanese makers – I recently bought a bottle of Yamazaki 18 years but had been sick for the last two weeks and can’t wait to try it soon!

  20. I can’t count the number of ideas I’ve lost because I thought I would write them down later, when I had a moment. Now I do exactly what you do. I love Of Monsters and Men. And Norah Jones. I’m drawn to the arts in general, but watercolour, sculpture, and photography have a special place. I love sunrise and sunset and an autumn sky. Fat flakes of snow and a child’s laugh… Always enjoy reading your posts, Otto.

  21. Thoughtful and thought provoking as always, Otto. The lead image is wonderful I love the way you have faded the sky away.

  22. I love getting caught in a torrential downpour when I’ve forgotten my umbrella. I love romance novels and heavy philosophy books(in the literal and figurative sense) I love people in all their colors and flaws and difference and sameness. I love wine. I love the odd sense of being so acutely aware of my own existence. I love the vast complexity of the universe. I love God or if it’s not God, it’s certainly something. Or rather Something. I love the indescribable beauty of writing my own music, and the irresistible freedom of singing it. I love too many things to name.

  23. First the slippery slope of ideas —I have lost more than I have transferred to paper. I have tried everything, pencils, notebooks, smart-phones and smartphones with a stylus, to no avail. As for loving, I love writing and photograhy, so I love books, authors, cameras (mostly Nikon) and soulful photographers. I love well made movies.

    1. Thank you for sharing what you love in life, umashankar. And yes, for a long time I tried to write down my ideas to no avail. But I have lost too many ideas to not write them down any more… 🙂

  24. Hej Otto, mycket bra inlägg. Naturen i alla dess skepnader från stort till smått är det som känns viktigast för mig i mitt nuvarande skapande. Före jag deltog i din e-workshop så var det mest bara detaljer som intresserade mig. Kämpar på med att spränga komfortzonen och försöker använda vidvinkelobjektivet för att utöka mitt helhetseende men väljer det inte i första hand.
    Före jag började fota samlade jag ivrigt på ideer, bilder, tyger, garner, färger i mappar, pärmar, lådor och anteckningsböcker. Allt finns kvar men saknar organiserade rutiner för samlandet för det jag vill skapa med kameran. Tusen tack för att du delar med dig av dina kunskaper och tips.
    Tror absolut på att när någon går in i ett nytt okänt område så sker utveckling både inom det området och den som utför skapandet.
    Bästa Hälsningar

    1. Så kjekt å høre at du fortsatt prøver å komme deg ut av komfortsonen. Du har jo allerede et sterkt bildesyn, så det skal bil spennende å se hvor du tar det videre. Ellers, ja, det er vanskelig det med å få organisert ideer. Jeg har en venn av meg som skriver ned alt som dukker med en gang – og så på kvelden organiserer det på PCen sin. Men det krever virkelig disiplin. Takk for din omtenksomme kommentar, Monica.

  25. Within the words that you have composed is a theme that is dear to my heart. All my life I’ve been relentlessly filling notebooks of various sizes and shapes with those ideas and notions that float about inside, but they also are filled with resources and sources. Oh, I adored the invention of Post-It notes, which I still have everywhere. You are so correct about the ease of this “obsession” with our phones. The other day I reached into my pocket on a walk, and my small post-it pad was not there. Yes, but I had my iPhone. Thanks again Otto for giving your usual insights into the creative process, which is part of what is happening in your commentary.

    1. Strangely enough, Post-It has never made it into my life. I think I can count on three hands how many times I have posted one of yellow (or other colours) somewhere. I think it’s the singularity of Post-It that turns me off. I like to have things piled up together – not that it helps to organize them any better… Thanks for your words of wisdom, Sally.

  26. Very nice post. You reminded me of my noteboks from childhood. Books full of pasted pictures from magazines and newspaper, and cuttings from old greeting cards. I should find them 🙂

  27. I have never kept a scrapbook or notepad until recently, but my son who is a designer and creative director has been doing this for years. But I do write notes of my thoughts about photography, and I collect photographic quotes. I now try to see as many exhibitions of Art and Sculpture as possible. My best thinking is done out walking or running – the endorphins flow. I have recently started carrying a small notebook and pen, because once I get home the thinking is ‘gone’. Another post that really gets us all thinking. Bravo, Otto.

  28. Such an inspiring post Otto. I often forget ideas I have on the run, just because I did not have anything to write it down on, at the time. I have to be honest though, I do have lots of empty notebooks, waiting to be used.
    You’ve inspired me to get creative with paper and to follow through.
    I am just learning to listen to what my heart loves in matters of photography, I read a lot and have quite an eclectic taste in music anything from classical, to Latin to indie music…
    I agree with you in that are fshioned by what we love. Collecting all the pieces of the puzzle we are is part of the whole life journey we’re taking.
    Thank you for your eye opening words 🙂

    1. It is really the life journey we are taking, isn’t it?! Collecting what is us and finding our way. I am glad to hear that my post maybe could inspire you to start using your somewhat empty notebooks. Thanks for sharing your experience, Anyes.

  29. I love this post, Otto! 🙂 As usual it is chock full of good and practical ideas, and the snippets you reveal about yourself too. I always ‘diary’ my travels but there are so many more influences out there. You’re right- write it down! 🙂

  30. Takk for gode nyttige tips! Dette skal jeg prøve – kanskje det kan hjelpe meg litt igang igjen ; ) Jeg fotograferer fortsatt, men det blir mest med telefon og instagram. Takk for din siste kommentar på bloggen min, det var den som skulle til for å at jeg endelig fikk lagt inn et nytt bilde ; )
    Ønsker deg fine dager, Otto! Jeg nyter flotte dager i den norske fjellheimen : )

    1. Ønsker deg lykke til med å finne inspirasjonen igjen. Du vet sånn er det for oss alle. Det går litt opp og ned. Men jeg vet at du snart vil være tilbake igjen. Det finnes ingen annen vei for en med ditt bildesyn. 🙂

  31. I love rocks and collect, or take photos of them. Books and reading.Also love listening to Jian Ghomechi, a CBC radio talk show host who has so much enthusiasm for his guests and I learn a lot from his interviews. Lattes, cheesecake,chocolate and caramel, fruit,.and will never tire of hamburgers, hot crisp french fries, (no wonder I’m overweight). I love getting out and taking photos. I picked up an old sketchbook from the 80’s that is still unfinished and started writing, doodling in it again. I loved going for a hike this weekend and lying on a dock, listening to the water lapping beneath, feeling the heat of the sun on my skin and from the boards. I love getting off work, getting into my car and turning up the volume on the radio, singing along to the 80’s rock songs or raunchy blues. Dancing to almost anything, forgetting that I have aches and pains.Ha Ha!No one has mentioned good sex with a loved one. I love sleeping, nothing like an afternoon nap when I am tired.A good night’s sleep is something I love which I am going to do now. Pardon my self-indulgence, I got a little carried away but thank you Otto, I am.feeling grateful now for the fullness of life.

  32. Good morning and many thanks for your advice to write down our spontaneous ideas or thoughts. I, for example, love languages and my kitchen is always full up of words I write down, trying to memorize. I wish you a very inspiring day.
    Best regards

  33. With a deep love for the written word, whether it’s mine or a favorite author, I have always been a scribbler, copying quotes etc. My problem is that I lack a system and these notebooks and scraps of paper are all over the place! The phone thing could help though not keen on being overly connected to that gadget! As always, a thought provoking post.

  34. Very inspiring reading, Otto and also the comments from your readers. Since years and years I carry my little book + pen with me where ever I go. I use it the way you describe it and every now and then I pick it up and go through the pages – very often when I’m travelling and half an hour at the airport, waiting for the train or the coach and get new, connecting ideas. I might hear, read or see something, the list is long, but in this instant I always think; “too good to forget or just let go of…” There’s no order to it, just creative chaos and I’m sure it would be rewarding to spend more time going through the pages. If I come up with something I’m happy with, I make an WP draft and let it mature… Momentarily I have …77 drafts 🙂 time to go back and put a few of them in the bin! Actually, very often a published post is the result of five different drafts that have been waiting for quite some time.

    1. The way you describe how you use your notes is exactly for me how one can draw as much inspiration and energy out of random thoughts that occur every day and all the time. Yes, eventually it becomes overwhelmingly much, but the latest entries are always quite close if nothing else. What you write also reminded me of an other advantage of pen and paper over digital storage. Some time ago I accidentally deleted a whole document of ideas to myself on my cell phone. Unnecessary to say it wasn’t backed up – who backs up his or her cell phone?… After that it took me a long time to start taking down notes again.

      1. The advantage of being a woman… I always carry a big bag and not a tiny handbag – with room for my writing book and lots of empty space for what may come my way. when I leave the house. 🙂 I don’t use the cell phone for notes, but occasionally to make a photo of something interesting and inspiring that I see, mostly in good bookstores.

        When I surf the net and find something that triggers something within me, (like a some of your posts for instance) I copy it and send it to myself as an email.The email goes into one of the files with my main interests, (photo/quotes/reading-writing/travels etc) and it’s quickly organized and the whole process takes almost no time. I like to go through those files as I travel; long hours on flybussen, coaches, planes and train. Well you travel a lot yourself; it’s hard to emerge into a book when you have to watch out, check in and out, get up and sit down so I find it helpful to have something worth reading that takes only 5-10 minutes any gives me something to think about when I line up in the next queue.

        I’d love to use my camera and point it on the fellow travelers, especially in London, where there are so many people from all over the world lining up at security checks etc, ..so many stories out there, but of course I can’t do that. I wonder how on earth this new shooting star managed to make all this great photos of the people on the beach in their “comfort zone” without getting his nose broken. 😉

  35. Always such wonderful inspiration here! I do occasionally type notes on my laptop but I really like your idea of carrying a little notebook or possibly using my phone. Lately I’ve been admiring the work of Dutch painters and the beautiful light in their work. Now if I could only replicate that somehow in my photography!

  36. I feel the same way about paper ~ the feel of it, especially when I am writing and creating (small or big thoughts). For the past couple years I’ve begun using Evernote, and it has greatly reduced my use of written notes…as it has been a great upgrade on creating the ‘dots’ you talk about. In photography, work and just general things of every day life are made better by taking the time to track something of interest ~ to take something I’ve learn and build on it…makes me appreciate things to greater extent. And when I stumble onto something I jotted down months (or years) ago ~ it is as exciting as finding lost treasure 🙂

  37. What a beautiful inspiring post!! 🙂 I have kept a notebook like that since I was 7 🙂 I must be having hundreds of them stored away in my parents house 🙂 When I am sad or lost I love to make little collages of things that makes me feel happy 🙂 If I cant do that I just write down words or draw images 🙂 I love that. I also have a box of my favorite things that I carry with me wherever I move to. 🙂 It is like a magical box! 🙂 Some times I also get ideas in my sleep so I need to have a notebook by my bed too 🙂 I love your posts Otto! 🙂

  38. Firstly, thanks for liking my humble little blog post from Serendipity Farm in farthest flung antipodean Tasmania. I find it amazing that people from all over the world can bounce off other people’s ideas and can find commonality in their writing. This post really strikes a chord with me. I am not a disciplined writer. I just let my muses spatter paint my words onto the page. My blog posts are conglomerations of randomness that I try to link with good humour. I never quite know why people like my blog posts. I am flattered but confused. The idea of keeping a notebook is an excellent one. I think of amazing ideas when I am 4km away from home, being dragged along by my determined tank of a dog and have to try to find mnemonic ways to remember what my great idea is…firstly I have to remember what a mnemonic process actually is ;). I sometimes wonder if I tried to tame my muses, if my desire to hone the vernacular, would result in part of the magic dissipating. I wonder if “I” was in charge of that bubbling cauldron, if I wouldn’t just make soup and be done with it. I think I might take a leaf out of your book. I might write down those ideas, those moments that make me laugh and cry and I might just start releasing them to my muses in controlled doses. I wouldn’t want them to O.D. on the good stuff as knowing my bolshie muses, they would stop trying. A great post, I really enjoyed it 🙂

  39. I love watching how light plays on the lake as it ripples, the realization that we don’t see the constantly changing patterns directly but rather by the light which is reflected.

  40. I enjoy the collectiveness of your post but really love this one from the picture to the content. “I don’t know how many brilliant ideas I have lost in oblivion only to see another person bring the same idea to life some time later”. is a reminder to us all on here because it happens so often

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