Hone Your Powers of Observation

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been binge-watching “Breaking Bad.” After the last episode (I’m making my way through Season 3) I watched an interview with the lead Bryan Cranston where he talked about how in his “off-time.” when he’s not playing Walter White, he spends a lot of time observing. He’ll sit in a café and watch a couple having a fight and pay attention to everything including body language. Then, he’ll file the details away to use the next time he’s playing a part where he’s having a fight. His observing is how he refines his artistry.


As a writer, that’s exactly what I do to generate my material. I observe both the external world and my own internal landscape. Of course, I’m editing it later but without those initial observations, I wouldn’t have any material.

So, if observation is key to all artists: writers, actors, painters and so on, are we giving ourselves enough distraction-free quiet time to really practice and fine tune our powers of observation?

This weekend, I invite you to take some planned, even timed, breaks from everything that takes you away from quiet observation. Shut off your wifi, turn off the cell phone ringer and spend 5-50 minutes of pure, unadulterated quiet. I find that the more I take planned breaks from email, the less addicted I am to email. The more I check email, the more I need to check it.

If it’s really an emergency, they will know how to find you.

What if your version of “Breaking Bad” means not rushing to answer every request made on your time the moment it enters your inbox? What if you put honing your powers in the number one slot for just 5 minutes? If that’s breaking bad then “Let’s Break Bad,” as they say at the end of each episode’s podcast.

Photo by Nicolas LB on Unsplash