Paying attention

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” ~Mary Oliver

One of the challenges of being a writer, I think, is that I tend to live in my imagination a good deal. I move through my day simultaneously functioning in the real world and thinking about how I’d describe what I am doing or experiencing or thinking about through writing. (And that’s not even including all of the times when my mind is off in some fictional world of my own creation.)

But at the same time, writing is a practice that helps me pay attention in ways that I never do when I am not actively writing.

You see, my mind is always chattering away whether I’m writing or not. The difference is that when I’m actively writing, my mind is constantly looking for ideas. Everything I read, everything I see or hear or feel, everything I experience is all fuel for the creative fire. Therefore, I am paying attention in a deeper way as I try to determine how I can use each bit of material for a blog post or a writing prompt or a story idea.

I don’t just notice the wind blowing through the trees, I’m also busy thinking about how I would describe the play of light on the leaves as they toss about suspended in invisible waves of air. I think about the sound of the breeze, the feel of its breath against my skin and in my hair, and how I would put those things into words on a page.

I don’t just read books or articles and blog posts on the web, I’m also linking the ideas I’m encountering with other ideas I’ve found or recent experiences I’ve had or observed, finding commonalities and conflicts that I could explore in more depth.

I don’t just feel emotions or have reactions to things, I’m also paying attention to the stories behind them, the associations they prompt, the words I’d use to describe the emotions as they flow through my experience. How could I use the experience of these emotions to deepen a character description? How could I use the stories behind the emotions as character motivations, a blog post topic, or insight into another person’s experience that might lead to a whole new writing idea?

It seems sometimes as if all I do anymore is think about writing, which sounds like such a boring way to live on the surface. But the process of putting things into words and knowledge that I’m going to need a constant influx of new ideas drive me to pay attention every moment I can. My experience of life is deeper and richer when I am disciplined about this practice of writing. When I come back to it after time away, I am always amazed that I have managed to survive without it.

My only wish is that I could spend more of my time writing. There’s so much that I take in every day that I lose before I have the chance to get it down into words. Not that every bit of it would be worth recording, but it feels like such a waste of experience when there is so much life to pay attention to.

Have you noticed lately what a wonderful world we live in? Have you paid attention lately to the little things in life? What it feels like to take a deep breath, the taste of a ripe strawberry, the brilliance of the colors in a sunset, the brush of summer breeze on your skin, the sound of birds singing the world awake in the morning? There is such a bountiful gift in taking the time to pay attention. If you haven’t done so lately, take a few moments to really pay attention today. It’s worth every moment!

As for me, I’m grateful to be a writer for this and the many other gifts it brings, and I’m paying attention to what an amazing blessing it is!

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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