Continuing to join in with, enjoy and get a lot from the On Being A Writer online discussion at Kate Motaung’s blog. The discussion is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On Being a Writer: 12 simple habits for a writing life that lasts.
Today’s prompt (and the topic of the 4th Chapter of the book under discussion) is Notice.
I don’t have a problem noticing things. It’s part of my nature (apparently it’s a characteristic of people with the INFJ personality type). I actually often have a problem turning off my noticing skills: I sometimes can’t stop looking, don’t want to leave places that stimulate me (usually when I’m in Nature or a crowded place with lots of interesting people to people watch) and find myself constantly imagining stories based around the people I’ve seen or the places/buildings/doors I’ve passed (does anyone else like interesting doors or is that just me?!). My head is a well-populated place!
I’ve read that a lot of people have trouble noticing so, for my contribution to the discussion, I decided to brainstorm ideas about how to improve one’s noticing skills and I ended up deconstructing the process I use when I want to be more mindful about my noticing. Here goes:
- Clear your mind. You’re less likely to notice anything if your mind is occupied with the things you still need to do/the silly argument you had with the cashier/is planning tonight’s dinner/the million other things we manage to keep juggling in our heads at any one time (!)….clear your mind and you’ll have space to be able to notice.
- Find somewhere comfortable to sit and get comfy. Then prepare yourself to just notice. Let go of anything that’s weighing your mind down.
- Close your eyes. Feel the place with your other senses: What can you smell? What can you feel on your skin? What can you hear? [This step is important; it’ll disconnect you from where you ‘were’ mentally to where you ‘are’ physically and will allow you to enter your period of noticing much more mindfully]
- Once you’ve closed your eyes for a few minutes, and you feel more relaxed, more mindful, open your eyes and see. I don’t mean look, I mean see. What’s in front of you? What’s around you? Don’t just look at them but take the time to consider them, to really see them.
- Once you’ve seen around you for a while, start to focus on the things that interest you. Then take the time to explore everything about them. If it’s a person, look at their face, their hair, their clothes, their shoes. If a building, note it’s height, size, paint colour. Take the time to notice the main characteristics.
- Close your eyes and try to remember the things you were drawn towards. Try to recreate them in your mind’s eye.
- Start to describe what you saw when you considered it in detail. As the famous advice states: Show don’t tell. Use all the things you felt (with your other senses), use all the details you managed to see. Use them all to describe what you focused on.
- Repeat as necessary!
I use this process often, especially when I’ve been stressed and I find myself feeling really disconnected from my surroundings. I find it helps me become much more mindful of my surroundings and definitely helps me to channel my nervous energy in to something positive and relaxing.
It’s a process that’s also helped my writing a great deal. I often find it’s much easier to describe imaginary situations or imaginary people than it is for me to describe things I’ve actually seen, or situations I’ve lived (because no-one else has seen them!), but this is, I’ve realised, a lazy option, as a writer.
I feel that we need, as writers, to be able to describe our reality, without projecting our feelings or distorting that reality and, I know for myself, that my own writing didn’t improve until I made the real, conscious, effort to faithfully describe things/events I’d experienced/lived.
I couldn’t start to faithfully describe (reproduce?) the situations/characters I had in my head until I’d made the effort to learn how to describe anything in an interesting manner, reproducing every aspect of it in such a manner that the resulting description was not only a faithful approximation of it’s essence but, also, an interesting read because it was much fuller, much more authentic.
I hope this might help some people: I’ve learnt so much from all of you over the last two weeks that I really hope my (very minor) suggestions might help some of those of you who are struggling with noticing! [Isn’t that the great thing about a community like this one, that we, each of us, can offer something valuable that’s of help to others? Love it!]