Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Volume 121! We’re Talking About Practices - Not The…
Good morning renewed changlings becoming with 2024,
Can you taste it? The fresh beginnings that are served when a new year begins?
It is a period of the year when we consider new habits and practices. Certainly, by now many of us are committing to new headings and habits to help 2024 emerge creatively different than 2023.
But what types of practices have you committed to experimentally evolving in order to move in the direction of these new headings and transform your creative habits?
Of course, it’s never enough to say what you will do - though that is certainly part of how we can start. What’s more relevant is a commitment to the active experimental engagement – the doing of the activity required to realize the new heading - something we refer to as a practice.
A deliberate practice. Creativity is not something that is in the orbit of one's imagination. But ones experimental being of the world. The doing. The experimental practices for the as yet non-existent novel to emerge. To commit to a practice of any kind is a creative act. When practiced ten times, new skills emerge. When practiced 40 times, new possibilities surface. When practiced 100 times, unintended potentials present themselves.
While neither of us feels compelled for a calendar to tell us it’s the right time of year to start a practice - we believe every day is ripe for such an opportunity - rather, the start of a new year is a good time to share a list of practices you might find useful as you begin your efforts to evolve yourself based on the goals you’ve set.
With that, below, we offer you a mediation on practices, headings, and a few suggestions for creative practices that you can start to engage with today.
Please note none of this is meant to be prescriptive. For us, the ideal is that you hack, steal, mutate, and remake what you deem to be the most relevant. If you take just one little nugget from below and make it your own, we’ll consider it a win (take more, and our 2024 is off to a hot start!)
We are also, as always, really curious about your practices – especially collective ones. What are you doing? How are you doing it? Drop us a line and share what you are up to.
Ok, onward - creative practices for a banner 2024:
When we think about practices and developing of new practices – we need to first get a sense of the context: In a very real sense, there is only action – activity. Activity in life does not have an opposite. We are always in motion – from the subatomic scale to the scale of the universe, everything is in motion – in ceaseless activity. But this activity is not random – things are not just in motion willy-nilly. These events have a regularity – and this is because activity is organized. All reality is imminently organized – there is no transcendent force needed. These forms of organization are practices – self-organizing dynamic practices. Practices do not begin or end with human practices.
From a very human-centered practical perspective, even staying still – bringing ourselves into a meditative posture – is a complex and even challenging multi-modal and multi-scalar active practice. Our body is a set of self-organizing practices deeply entangled with environmental self-organizing practices. And our more deliberate practices – say, eating, meditating, or writing a newsletter are never really separate from these other ongoing practices.
We often assume we know what it means to be creative, but for us, it is always worth pausing and asking questions as we begin. For us, our creative capacities need to be understood in conjunction with an understanding of who we are:
We are inherently intersubjective embodied beings – who act collaboratively with an environment as environment-altering tool users. As we develop new tools, they give us new extended and embodied abilities which give rise to new affordances. These novel environmental affordances are sensed in ways that give rise to new inherently meaningful capacities – new behaviors and practices: skills, habits, concepts, and tools. And it is through this enactive looping process that we scaffold new creative aesthetics and meaningful ways of being alive.
Let's parse out this paragraph in a word-by-word fashion to develop a series of key practices to develop new enactive creative practices for 2024:
“We are inherently (1) intersubjective (2) embodied beings – who act collaboratively with an (3) environment as (4) environment-altering (5)tool users. “
This year, move away from the ideology of creativity as hyper-individualism and develop practices that work with others in very deliberate ways.
This year, focus less on ideating prior to and separate from embodied action. Practice an embodied experimental making-thinking. Let practices and ideas co-emerge with your deeply embodied actions.
This year, develop creative practices that take the environment as an equal collaborator.
This practice of reciprocal environment-self alteration is the core of what we would define loosely as an “Enactive Creativity.” A creativity that develops practices to lay down a novel path in the walking of that path into being.
This year, ground your creative practices in ecological practices of active environmental co-shaping (where the environment is an equal partner).
This year, experimentally invent new tools so as to make new capacities possible.
“As we develop new tools, they give us new extended and embodied abilities which give rise to (6) new affordances.“
This year, focus on understanding the actual logic of novel affordances as the relational capacities for novel actions and engaging with them as such.
“These (7) novel environmental affordances (structures) are sensed in ways that give rise to (8) new inherently meaningful capacities – new behaviors and practices: skills, habits, concepts, and tools.“
This year, experiment with your environment not as things to interpret, understand, and define correctly – but in relation to the novel experimental practices and capacities they might afford you – ask: what else can they do?
This year, iteratively follow the new beyond the known – and don’t stop until a threshold emerges in which something qualitatively new begins to take over.
“And it is through this enactive looping process that we (9) scaffold new (10) creative aesthetic and meaningful ways of being alive. “
This year, experimentally identify, dismantle, and invent novel scaffoldings so as to allow novel systems to gain their own agency.
This year, recognize and work explicitly with the novel creative world-making capacities of what is emerging.
These ten suggestions for developing new creative practices for 2024 form the basis of an Enactive Approach to Creativity. Try them out in your own way.
One danger in reading all of this that is especially prevalent at this time of year is falling for the language of goals and all the talk about the setting of new goals.
Far too often, we talk about goals in regard to creativity. These could be personal goals or business goals. To these big goals, we then add benchmarks we should meet and intermediate goals to achieve. The perplexing thing is that these are all imagined to lead us to the achievement of the final desired goal. Perhaps this is a goal to lose weight and reach a certain weight. Or it is a sales goal.
But how will any of this logic be helpful in regards to a creative outcome? How can you set, as a goal, something that does not yet exist?
Creative practices are profoundly hindered by the logic of a goals-based approach, as they bring us back into a far too linear world of the known and the given. What is far more helpful for a creative practice is to have a general “horizon” or “heading.” This sets a general direction – a vector that organizes experimental practices without proscribing the what or how. The broadness and abstraction of a “horizon” is also helpful in that there is no singular target that must be aimed at. Horizons nurture and support broad open experimentation. In our practice, we like to call this the “matter of concern.” What is this, and can you apply this? Here is a longer post on this practice.
This year, shift from the logic of the practice of goals to a practice of horizons, trajectories, headings, and propensities and use new forms of abstraction to develop these as a matter of concern.
Treat our ten practices not as goals to achieve but as general vectors or headings to orient your practices.
Moving from goals to headings and horizons is not a practice that works by itself:
Creativity is a practice that is always haunted by the potential of a radically new that does not yet exist emerging. But to be able to have a practice that can welcome such novelty – we need to develop a practice of actively putting – or pushing aside what exists for the sake of what does not exist – for the sake of what cannot be imagined to exist – and this is a practice of active forgetting.
Besides an abstract heading or horizon, we need an active practice of forgetting:
The creative practice of forgetting is an active practice of putting aside, putting down, refusing, stepping over to co-make a qualitatively different way. It is a trust that knowledge and reality are not fixed and singular – it is a faith that other worlds are possible. It is an experimental stance of “we do not know what this can do.”
Active forgetting is not a “reinventing the wheel” in an “it's new to me” logic. To reinvent what exists is a risk that comes along with practicing creativity in the world of the qualitatively similar.
Nor is it a burying one's head in the sand, forgetting. That is a freezing of agency and a surrender.
Without a practice of active forgetting, it is exceedingly hard to creatively emerge with novel worlds that are qualitatively different (ontologically different). For a big part of the difficulty with novel radical difference is that it cannot be recognized from within the known – it proposes a new regime of sense-making and being that is incommensurable.
Active forgetting allows one to move creatively away from the arts of critique and into the practices of invention. It affords us the space of becoming otherwise.
Active forgetting involves developing a practice of deliberate perplexity. In the face of the known, one deliberately returns to zero while leaving behind the existing identity/purpose to experimentally ask: “what else can it do?” and then to put it into practice.
This year, forget better.
Curious about more? We write about this in Volume 70.
All of this is deliberately abstract and vague – our suggestions for practices are not a road map. We recognize that the unique idiosyncrasies of context reinvents everything. You will have to hack, transform, and make these your own to derive a practice from them. It could never be any other way.
But, given this, we would like to suggest a simple, concrete, and grounded way to approach the development of new creative habits and spaces. Our suggestion is to start by carving out some time each day for mundane physical activities that slow you down and expand you outwards.
These mundane physical activities are most often activities we have given over to independent machines: Coffee making, washing dishes, vacuuming, etc. It is not so important exactly what these activities are, as that they:
The goal is to pull yourself back into actively sensing how you are a whole body actively connected via affordances to an environment through tools and activities:
As an example of such a practice, I decided that one of these activities for me (Iain) will be to make coffee by hand: Grinding the beans with a cheap hand grinder, boiling the water on the stove, and using a drip filter. I have little interest in a fancy cup of coffee, but I have a real interest in feeling and enacting processes that are overtly embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive – and this process does this quite well. As the water boils I lean against the counter and wait, my eyes drift to drawings and notes on the fridge. I have my notebook with me, and it is open on the counter. There is no radio to pull me into other worlds. The loop of activities produces a creative embodied pause that can extend and has a space to repeat in variation – for a moment, I am taken out of what I am doing, and I drift into a silent spoken dialog with the self or perhaps with a pen making a note…
It is important not to see any of these mundane activities as a chore but as an experiment in exploring enaction. The key is to use these breaks in your routine as practices that will bleed into and transform your other daily activities (especially in regard to your creative work).
Washing, drying and putting away dishes is another powerful enactive practice. Touching, holding, and sensing each object as a distinct thing. The moving around the kitchen to put things away – the reaching, bending, perceiving… I especially enjoy balancing the washed dishes on a cloth on the counter without a dish drying rack. These are all the tools of an activity, carefully balanced and summing up a moment.
Again, make sure that your devices are off or away and that the radio, etc., are off. Of course, there is nothing wrong with listening to the radio/podcasts, etc., or getting on your devices – but you do need to carve out a time for mundane activities that can allow your mind to be as broad as the space and as active as your body.
Make it a habit of using your notebook in these moments. In the kitchen, you should see on the fridge bits of text, drawings and diagrams.
The anti-efficiency aspect of all of this is important for a couple of reasons:
Efficiency as an embodied environmental practice has real consequences that ripples through everything we do. It radically divides our subjectivity into necessary and unnecessary, it streamlines practices to a narrow focus, it tunes out differences, and categorizes the odd, new, and different as distractions. It begins at the end (goal) and organizes your day/life/subjectivity backward. It short circuits repetition, variation, thresholds, novelty… We turn ourselves into a means and not an end…. It works best when we become experientially disembodied…
Efficiency as an ongoing and all-pervasive practice is a deep-seated cultural logic that has its place but takes over too much of our places, habits, practices, tools, and forms of embodiment. Think of these mundane practices as islands protected from efficiency, and its silencing of differences, reach.
These practices can also be extended by doing other physical things that let your thinking practices expand enactively in open ways. These activities could be walking, sewing, cooking, dancing, scrambling, running, cycling, building, bathing, showering, etc.
We find the most interesting forms of extended attunements to enactive affordances happens in mundane practices with living systems. The practice of fermenting things is one that is most rewarding in these regards: sourdough bread, kombucha, miso making, pickles, country wines, etc. (Noma has a wonderfully accessible and experimental cookbook on fermentation that is worth checking out).
Curious about more? We write about this in Volume 98.
This year, let's embrace the anti-efficiency of enactive creative practices – working collectively – deliberately forgetting while sinking into challenging environments and letting them shape us as we develop new tools and sense new affordances that pull us towards emergent horizons, allowing for the emergence of novel as yet non-existent worlds.
With all that, we wish you a wonderful experimental week that begins a new year of enactive creative practices!
🧨 P.S.: We facilitate workshops and the accolades are overwhelming.
❤️ P.P.S.: Love this newsletter? We'd be grateful if you heap a bit of praise in the comments
🏆: P.P.P.S: Find the newsletter valuable? Please share it with your network
🙈 P.P.P.P.S: Hit reply - feedback of any kind is welcome
🏞 P.P.P.P.P.S.: This week's drawings in Hi-Resolution
📚 P.P.P.P.P.P.S.: Go deeper - Check out our book which is getting great feedback like this: