Activities, Places

Create Wonder Action #1: Visit a Museum

Once a week, I will post a suggested activity for creating wonder in your life. Julia Cameron, creativity inspiration guru, suggests in The Artist’s Way to have a weekly Artist Date, doing something to “fill your well”. I think it’s a good practice to get you out of your routine and feed your soul whether you consider yourself an Artist or not.  I will include three different participation levels, so lack of time or money will be no excuse. Please share your experiences here to inspire others. At the end of the week, I will put all the people’s names who posted their experience in a hat and draw a winner at random to receive a prize. This week it will be a copy of my book, Animal Mashups, before it’s even available to the public. Whee! Go forth and create wonder.

I’m going to start with an easy one. Go visit a museum where the contents amaze you. This may seem obvious, but a museum’s purpose is to cause you to wonder at what’s inside. Some succeed at this better than others. Many people assume museums are boring, but there are all sorts of museums out there, full of things that may interest you. Find one that floats your boat and set aside some time to get lost and marvel for awhile.

Ample Time and Money: Seek out the museum of your dreams and go there. You may not be able to do it this week, but make a goal to do it someday. I have been lucky enough to get to see some of the best art museums in the world on various trips (the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Getty, the Met, just to name a few), and they were amazing experiences. But maybe the museum of your dreams is more obscure – a train museum, a wine museum, whatever you are into, I bet there is a collection of the best of the best of it. I just discovered there is a children’s picture book art museum and it is now on my list of places to see. Find what you love and go.

Limited Resources: A trip to your dream museum may be impractical right now, but check out what your local museum has right now. I am lucky to live in San Francisco, where any given week a number of museums will have something interesting going on, including ones geared toward my son like the Zeum, Bay Area Discovery Museum, and Exploratorium. But wherever you find yourself, even in many small towns, there will be a local collection of history, art, or memorabilia of some kind. You don’t even have to plan a whole day. Check it out on your lunch break, or some museums have an evening each week when they stay open late and you can go after work (in SF, the Asian Art Museum, the Academy of Sciences, MOMA and DeYoung all have weekly evening hours, often with live music and drinks). I popped into the Contemporary Jewish Museum last week for an hour and was delighted by the Maira Kalman exhibit. Leave it to Maira to capture the wonder in something as simple as a rubber band. Love her!  I left walking on air and ready to create.

Busy and Broke: Many museums have free days, and sometimes you can find free or discounted passes or memberships. Check out Savvy Source or the San Francisco Library Family Pass. But if you just can’t physically get yourself to a museum, you can explore many collections online. Google searches can get you to museums specializing in all kinds of things from the Titanic to Aviation History to Black Inventors. Obviously, the quality will vary, but some of our country’s top museums have some really neat online tours. Check out the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (beware, lots of stuffed dead animals in some gruesome scenarios) or the National Gallery of Art (this Hopper one is great).

Please come back and share what you discover (not something you saw once upon a time, please post an experience from this week or very recently). Where did you go? Was it wonder-inducing? Post what you saw by next Sunday, July 25 and I will send a copy of my book to one lucky participant.


9 thoughts on “Create Wonder Action #1: Visit a Museum

  1. I love the idea of a “campaign to create wonder”! We love to visit museums when we travel and have seen some great ones, especially children’s museums. We also love to visit arboretums (arboreta?) because they often have spectacular children’s sections. Our favorite so far is Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia – they have a fabulous water garden in the conservatory!

  2. My 9-year old dragged me into the Plumas Museum in Quincy just last week. He is an AVID museum-goer; me, less so. His enthusiasm and wonder are infectious, however, and I find myself in museums wherever we go…I bet I know more about trucks, tractors, planes, ships, submarines and WWII than any of my friends (and it’s mostly been fun AND definitely outside my box)!

  3. Cassy, in a fit of synchronicity, I had posted earlier this month on Feral Mom regarding a visit to The Museum of Air and Space in San Diego. The link to the entire post is here, though it takes awhile to get to the museum portion:

    I was trying out a new practice, involving not stressing about how much my husband was on board or not tracking the kids with me; so that particular day, I lost myself in the Amelia Earhart exhibit, watching a film clip featuring an interview with her, then later scanning the display that held a copy of her book on why women should go for their dreams, including the dream to fly.

    Great idea to have a more interactive blog! I’m going back to work too, in August, after having been home for ten years. I’m nervous, but excited too. Happy writing, Cassy.

  4. Rather than a field trip, I started doing something Raymond Chandler did, which is to notice at least fifteen things everyday, things (being the catch all noun) that you might use in your writing. The first think I noticed is that I don’t notice because I am lost in my own thoughts, a book, or thinking about writing. It takes more effort than I thought.

  5. There was wonder this week, and it almost came from an actual, pay to enter, see and be seen museum, but not quite. Instead of checking out the Bowls at Yerba Buena ( or the Museum of Craft and Folk Art ( that I just discovered, I ended up showing my apartment. To strangers. And realizing how very like a museum our living spaces are. Wonder inspired by a metaphor drawn so that I could post something about a museum.

  6. Hi, Cassy,

    May’s comment reminded me…

    Two weeks ago I got to go to Gary Soto’s house and see the memorabilia he has collected for his new literary museum. Much of it is on his website, but he showed us his vision and shared stories–I even got to see the manuscript he’s working on (but didn’t read more than a few words). What a thrill to not only meet an author who I have admired for years, but also to witness his pride and dedication to literacy in the SJ Valley.

    Have you seen Calder to Warhol at the MOMA yet?


    1. Thanks for everyone’s comments! I’m glad you all experienced wonder in all sorts of museums, and gave me ideas for places I need to check out (been meaning to go to MOMA, thanks for the reminder, Jackie!), and even ways to rethink what a “museum” is (thanks, May!). Tania was chosen to receive my little book, but I hope you’ll continue the creative conversation with my new action for this week. Do you have spaces to wonder in? Tell me about them. If you don’t, create one!

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