Day 12. Delight: SENSES
Author Gretchen Rubin helps us delight in our senses
Helloooo Grown-ups table Friends. I have a special one for you today.
Yesterday, we focused on the delight in our clothing: stories, history, personality, and joy. Talk about a hit! Clearly, the subject resonated with everyone. I bet that if we dig a little deeper into those delights, we could connect our stories to the senses: the feeling, smell, look, and even sound of each article you selected.
When we pay attention to our senses, it slows us down and helps us notice more. Focusing on our senses creates opportunities for creativity and delight.
Today, we’re revisiting a thoughtful, inspiring conversation I had with the one and only author, Gretchen Rubin, a couple of months back. We talked about the senses and creativity, and it’s closely related to what we are doing this week in the GUT 30-Day Drawing Habit. (Also, a big bonus for DrawTogether GUT subscribers: a discount on Gretchen’s latest project at the end of this dispatch!)
Without further ado, let’s jump right in. Drum roll, please….
GUT Visiting Artist: The DELIGHTFUL Gretchen Rubin
Creativity boosts our mood and our energy. It gives us a sense of accomplishment. It helps us communicate our vision to the world. It often helps us deepen social connections. - Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin, that’s who!
If you aren’t familiar with Gretchen, she is a world-renowned author whose work intersects with creativity and all we do here on the GUT in such a unique and vital way. Her book, The Happiness Project, has sold over 2 million copies, and helped countless people make little shifts in their lives that made big impacts on their happiness. She has inspired readers worldwide to push outside their daily habits and try something new.
Since that literary explosion, Gretchen has written two more books - most recently Life in Five Senses. While Gretchen might use words as her medium, her approach to her work (and life) is similar to how we use drawing here at the Grown-Ups Table. Her work inspires people to approach life with fresh eyes, experiment, to tinker with new approaches, and to see how those experiences change us, inside and out.
With gratitude and appreciation, we bring Gretchen Rubin back as a Visiting Artist to explore creativity, the senses, and drawing. What follows is an abbreviated Q&A and an assignment Gretchen and I developed together. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.
Conversation with Gretchen Rubin
Wendy: Hi, Gretchen, and thanks for hanging with us at the Grown-Ups Table. Many people know your work from your NYT-bestselling book The Happiness Project—the book documenting your 12-month journey trying different approaches to feel happier. You’ve also just published a book called Life in Five Senses, in which you dive deep into the world of the senses to become more present and attuned and happier in your life. In these endeavors and others, you’ve researched how creativity intersects with happiness. What links have you found between creativity and happiness?
Gretchen: There are so many links between creativity and happiness!
Creativity boosts our mood and our energy. It gives us a sense of accomplishment. It helps us communicate our vision to the world. It often helps us deepen social connections. It gives us the atmosphere of growth that’s so key to happiness—the feeling that we’re growing, learning, and pushing ourselves in an exciting way.
And creativity is fun—even though, of course, it can also be frustrating (which is part of the fun). On the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, we occasionally throw out a creative prompt such as “Choose a one-word theme for the year,” “Identify your personal symbol,” or “Write a haiku.” Listeners always respond with tremendous enthusiasm….
As research for my book Life in Five Senses, I decided to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art every day for one year. (I’m incredibly fortunate: I live within walking distance of the Met, and have the time and freedom to visit.) That year is long over, and I still visit every day. I love to see how the Met changes over time, and how each of my senses reveals different aspects of it, and how making a daily visit changes me.
Wendy: Let’s turn towards those senses, because so much of getting into a creative project is about being present. And I find one of the best ways to get present is to attune to our senses. In your research, have you found any helpful information on how we can use our senses to get more in touch with our creative selves?
Gretchen: Absolutely! And I discovered a great exercise to harness our senses to spark creativity: Keep a daily five-senses journal. On a piece of paper, write down “Seeing,” “Hearing,” “Smelling,” Tasting,” and “Touching,” and every day, write down one notable experience from each sense that day. It’s astonishing how this exercise sparks memories, gives ideas for new adventures, helps us to connect with others, and gives us ideas for creative projects. It also heightens our awareness of the present moment and acts as a gratitude journal.
When I started my research, I predicted that tuning into my five senses would spark my creativity—and wow, that has happened. To be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed by how many more projects I’m working on or planning.
Wendy: How does community (like the Grown-Ups Table!) fit into your findings around creativity, happiness, and embracing the senses?
Gretchen: Being with other people is often a great way to spark ideas and create a sense of play, whether by riffing on ideas, learning and teaching techniques, sharing constructive criticism, or just goofing around. For instance, I did two major photo projects with one of my best friends. These projects took so much time and energy, and I love them so much. This kind of project was so different from the usual kind of thing I do that I found it extraordinarily energizing.
Being with other people is often a great way to spark ideas and create a sense of play, whether by riffing on ideas, learning and teaching techniques, sharing constructive criticism, or just goofing around.
Wendy: Last but not least, we ask our visiting artists to offer a drawing assignment to GUT members. Would you give us our drawing assignment this week?
Gretchen: I’m excited to share an exercise with you that I call the Five-Senses Portrait—something I developed while researching my book Life in Five Senses. Typically, this has been a written exercise, but given that GUT is all about drawing, I’ve turned it into an art assignment that can help bring our sensory memories to life.
Wendy (in real time now!) GUT 30-Day Drawing Habit peeps - I’m so excited to share this delightful drawing practice with you. Be sure to use your TIMER for this. I know a lot of folks (myself included!) are going over the 10-minute mark. That might seem like a good idea, and nobody will die if you do it, but if we are looking to build a habit and undo perfectionism, then that 10-minute timer is an essential strategy.
Alright, without further ado, here is our DELIGHT drawing for day 12.