Attentiveness

Each time I begin to prepare my next blog, I start out with absolutely no idea about what I am going to write, so I read through writing magazines, books on the craft, novels I’ve read before, even quotes I’ve liked in the past, to find inspiration.  My next idea might even come from something I heard someone say in passing, or from someone else’s experience that captured my interest. It might even spring from a line in a song or from a simple observation of nature. 

My ideas come from everywhere, and anywhere. 

They are inspired by people, by life, by questions, ….by any or all of the above.   

However, regardless of my idea’s origin, it takes paying attention to be able to find it.

For example, this bi-monthly blog was inspired by the March 28 passage in Sarah Young’s Devotions for Every Day of the Year, Jesus Calling reading: Philippians 2:17; Mark 10:15; Isaiah 26:3 NKJV:

  To increase your intimacy with Me (Jesus), the two traits you need the most are receptivity and attentiveness. Receptivity is opening your innermost being to be filled with My abundant riches.  Attentiveness is directing your gaze to Me, searching for Me in all your moments. It is possible to STAY YOUR MIND ON ME, as the prophet Isaiah wrote. Through such attentiveness you receive a glorious gift: My perfect peace.  

As I read through this passage, the idea of attentiveness stared me in the face, like an eager opponent sitting across from me over a game of backgammon, expectantly waiting on me to make my next move.  While I understood the meaning behind the passage within that context in Young’s book- about how we are able to find peace if only we search for and truly see Jesus, this message also rings true in our writing, and in our every day lives. 

In other words, writers pay attention to find inspiration.

But, isn’t that the same in life?

Don’t we need to pay attention in order to understand our life’s purpose, to comprehend the answers to the questions we are always asking, and to truly grasp and appreciate one another.

Attentiveness

is

Paying attention

to detail,

to others,

to the environment around us,

to life’s perfect moments, 

and not so perfect moments.

It is showing we care.

Attentiveness is being mindful and observant.  It is listening, and it is kindness, compassion and it IS caring

-about others and what is going on outside our own compartmentalized boxes.

Writers pay attention to everything around them and then they find a way to describe what they’ve learned or observed, to put into words.

Anthony Ehlers, author of WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN A YEAR describes how noticing a perfect moment made him actually look at what was around him.

He says:

You can learn the craft of plot, of developing character, of refining genre — and all these are important steps to becoming a great writer — but at the heart of it, it’s really about capturing how you see the world. The beautiful, the seedy; the thrilling smile from a stranger, the polished shoes of a policeman, the way stained glass in a church makes you think of wine gums.

To emphasize this idea to become more attentive, I  borrowed the following quotes about attentiveness in writing from:  Amanda Patterson, the founder of “Writers Write”, a comprehensive writing resource company for creative writers, business writers, and bloggers: 

1.Pay Attention. Notice the quality of light, the heft of air, color of sky, faces, clouds, flowers, garbage, graffiti — all of it. Slow down and pay attention. Stop during your walks and examine a leaf. Read the writing in shop windows. Observe people getting on a bus, the bus driver, the stink of the bus exhaust. ~Judy Reeves

2. Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. ~Mary Oliver

3. But the sensibility of the writer, whether fiction or poetry, comes from paying attention. I tell my students that writing doesn’t begin when you sit down to write. It’s a way of being in the world, and the essence of it is paying attention. ~Julia Alvarez

4. Pay Attention – I honestly believe that the quality of a writer’s work has a direct correlation to the quality of his or her attention. I have to remind myself all the time to show up in my moments with all my antennae switched on. ~Sue Monk Kidd

5. The poet must not only write the poem but must scrutinize the world intensely, or anyway that part of the world he or she has taken for subject. If the poem is thin, it is likely so not because the poet does not know enough words, but because he or she has not stood long enough among the flowers–has not seen them in any fresh, exciting, and valid way. ~Mary Oliver

6.Writing is seeing. It is paying attention. ~Kate DiCamillo

7. The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.~Henry Miller

8. Listening is terribly important if you want to understand anything about people. You listen to what they say and how they say it, what they share and what they are reticent about, what they tell truthfully and what they lie about, what they hope for and what they fear, what they are proud of, what they are ashamed of. If you don’t pay attention to other people, how can you understand their choices through time and how their stories come out? ~Marge Piercy

9. All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready. ~Paulo Coelho

10. Geniuses are people who notice things and connections between things which others haven’t noticed. ~Christopher Ricks

11. Zen pretty much comes down to three things — everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.’ ~Jane Hirshfield

11. A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. ~Susan Sontag

Admittedly, I used to be terrible at paying attention to detail, in general.  I always tended to be a bottom- line person in my everyday, business life.  Don’t go on and on about stuff that “does not matter”,  just land the plane, pleaseDo not water the grass while the building is burning.  Just give me the bottom line.  Get to the point!

Wrong!

Sometimes the bottom line will become meaningless and weak- without the foundation supporting it, or all of the ingredients that cooked it, or the sweat and hard labor that went into it, or the adventurous journey traveled to get to the intended destination. 

Thankfully, as a writer, I have become better at paying attention to everyday aspects of life, like elements of nature. I am mesmerized by natural details like the long grass swaying in the breeze at the sides of the road, or the cracks in a sidewalk beneath my feet as I go for my run.   I am similarly  captivated by the dainty little daisies partially hidden within the lush green carpets of grass at the park, or the sun-triggered silhouettes dancing gracefully upon the pavement outside my window, or the newly sprouted buds speckling bare tree branches at the first sight of spring.  

These are the details that grab my attention and cling to me like a shadow following me on my walk, until they push their way into my story’s setting or plot. 

Similarly, just as these persuasive particulars provide inspiration for the writer’s stories and blogs, attentiveness to life’s details outside our own individual little worlds will provide collective aspiration for all of us in our every day lives. 

Jan Fortune, Editor and Author, says in her Why Writers Need a Language of Attentiveness, August 2020 blog:

Attentiveness alone can rival the most powerful magnifying lens.

In other words, it is our job as writers to observe, record and describe, as Anthony Ehlers stated in Writers Write, but it is also our job as human beings to wholly listen to others when they speak, to pay full attention to the people in our company instead of allowing ourselves to become distracted by an incoming text or a new post on social media, and just as it is our job as writers to put into words what we feel, see and learn, it is our job as individuals to exercise attentiveness, simply to show we care.   

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