In our modern age of Google, we have immediate access to any information we could possibly desire. Unfortunately, this can cause our minds to become lazy. We excuse ourselves from learning because we always have the option to look it up. But when we constantly have to stop what we are doing to look something up, we interrupt our flow of thoughts and our inspiration is halted.
Marc Hare, British shoe designer of Mr Hare, knows that the best way to fuel inspiration is through knowledge, and that knowledge is best gained through experience. In an interview for The Creative Class, Hare explains the difference between really knowing and experiencing a subject versus is simply relying on available knowledge:
You can panic. When you are trying to find out about something, you might skim through something and I think there are a lot of people out there who might have read just a Wikipedia page and constitute that as knowledge on the subject. It really isn’t. Art is a really good example of that. You can read through the history of an artist and you can see examples of their work but until you go and stand in the gallery in front of that piece of work and actually immerse yourself in it, and bath in the colors, understand the scale and see historically why it’s relevant, you don’t really know about it.
Hare encourages us to get offline and so do numerous researchers. While access to online material proves to be convenient, it doesn’t take hold in your mind. Human development author Joseph Chilton Pearce estimates that the average learner only remembers 3% of a standard 45 minute lecture. That’s just over a minute. This is because verbal presentations only stimulate 5% to 20% of the neurons responsible for long-term memory. However, if we learn something through experience, we stimulate 95% of those same memory forming neurons.
As Hare suggests, one way to learn is by actively going and doing. Instead of simply reading about an artist’s work, travel to see it in person. Instead of watching an online video about a painting technique, join a workshop and try it for yourself.
If there is no feasible way to experience your desired information in person, professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas Art Markman has a trick to internalize it. Once you have finished reading or listening to the information, explain it back to yourself so that you fully understand the topic. Just because you read it online, doesn’t mean that you will remember it. As Hare reminds us that the internet “…doesn’t teach you everything, it just gives you access to everything.”