Monday, November 12, 2012


So remember my Insecure Writer's post last week on positivity? The same retreat had a couple other topics, but I am not even going to go in the general AREA of organization. In fact I will go so far as to say when one women was explaining how SHE could be organized, the problem was all the slobs who lived with her (her husband and children) and my friend said, 'oh, I have your problem,' I had the forthright honesty to say, “I AM your problem.” I don't have any delusions of organization. In fact I'd go so far as to say I don't even really WANT to be organized. It looks like a lot of work.

But there WAS another topic that sort of hit home.

You know how writers have all these parties and meetings and relationships between imaginary people in our head? And we can wander through our days perfectly entertained without ever talking to another human being? How you drive from A to B and don't remember ANY of it because you are so engaged in recrafting the scene in your head?

Yeah. That.

Well, see... it turns out it would probably do us good be be PRESENT sometimes in our own life. Not analyzing it or rewriting it as we live it, but just EXPERIENCING it.

And I get the temptation to let your creative mind fly. I LOVE the worlds in my head. But chances are we are missing some real life experiences when we aren't really in the moment. And if we live some real life now and then, our writing can really benefit.

We did a little activity... Laura (the woman who led this part) handed out strawberries to each of us and told us to pretend we'd never encountered one before. She walked us through experiencing it for the first time, even though, presumably, every one of us had had a strawberry before.

Use all five senses. More than once even, for something you are going to eat.
Look at it. Describe it in words. What shape is it. What does it remind you of.
Touch it with your finger. How does it feel?
Hold it under your nose. How does it smell.
Touch it with your tongue—how does it feel now?
Take a bite and hold it in your mouth. How does it taste?
Now chew on it. What's the texture? How does it feel now?

Her point was even the simplest experiences can be really rich if we pay attention.

And there are times we should ALWAYS pay attention. Some of these I'm really bad at. Often I feel very interrupted when my family needs me if I'm writing, but for pete's sake, shouldn't THEY be my first priority? But I'm a bad person that way. I need to work on this.

But the exercise... pick something each day and REALLY experience it. With all our senses. With no competing STUFF in our heads... It can be a walk through a park or a meal. Anything. But practice being in the present once in a while. It's good for us!


Old Kitty said...

Balance is always tricky!

Off I go to experience more NAKEDness!! Take care

Siv Ottem said...

Sometimes I get so lost in my own world that I become accident, I relate well to this post!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's not just writing - I can be crafting guitar riffs in my head and not be present.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

This is something I think a lot about but haven't been able to accomplish! I think "Distracted" is my middle name...

Thanks for this reminder!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I am a distraction onto myself. Totally guilty of not seeing anything around me.

And I confess - I am one of those scary organized people.

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

I like my (head) world better than the real one. But, I know when my fam or friends ask me, "Where in the world are you (and I'm standing right in front of them), because you're not listening to me", I take the first flight back to the real world.

L.G.Smith said...

Have to admit I'm not always very present in my everyday life. I'm very content to play all day with the characters in my head. I should probably work on that.

j welling said...

Mindfulness is overrated.

My family - my second spouse - accommodates well that I am in my head most of the time. They understand that if I am outside the store scribbling something in a pocket notebook, that it isn't about them.

My day job is to think. I'm lucky there that no one can see the difference between thinking about correlative data relationships and the protagonist finding a unknown body in their shower.

I've been "here" for a good portion of my life and find I'd rather be "there" with Phil Glass playing from his _metamorphosis_ suite. In a room, with a grand, and a notebook: this is where I spend my life in my mind. It beats picking cotton.

Your friends understand that "there is something not quite right about you." Your spouse knows not to ask "what were you smiling about" when anyone else is around. You children are used to you reading "an especially fine passage" of someone's work aloud to them with no introduction, explanation, attribution, or hint of context.

My first wife once implored me to explain what I was laughing at. Truth. I took a deep breath and said I saw my protagonist madly emptying the refrigerator in the apartment so he could stuff a dead prostitute in it for the "appliance man" to come and retrieve. Thinking he had accomplished the task, a potentially romantic interest comes to the door and notices a mustard stain on the protagonists sleeve. She's bringing him a fresh pie so the whole "into the kitchen" business is nearly unavoidable. The ensuing internal battle of the calm I found funny knowing there was a dead girl in the fridge and a potential for the fridge to be opened by an innocent bystander.

It was a simple story of no real merit but the images were funny to me.

Bodies in the fridge as humor doesn't sit well with a certain type. [ Never marry a girl whose dog you like better than her.]

Tara Tyler said...

i like that exercise! i must try it! thanks!

LTM said...

ugh! This is so so true. Slowing down, balance, experiencing the moment. It's the whole Yoda post. Simple but important. <3

Cold As Heaven said...

Strawberries. At this time of the year?

I guess the real life experience is kind of guaranteed as long as we got kids living at home. But after that ...?

Cold As Heaven

Nate Wilson said...

Real life experience? Sorry, there are no talking unicorns, sword-wielding psychopaths, or invisible monkeys, I just don't see the point.

But seriously, that sounds like a great exercise. Particularly because I tend to leave two senses out of my writing most of the time. Three if you count seeing dead people.

Helena said...

How very Zen, to live in the moment. I don't do it often enough at all. And I shovel in food instead of savoring the tastes.

And yes, of course I live way too much in my head. It's warm and familiar and I can control my imaginary friendships there... (Damn, that doesn't sound healthy!)

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Strawberries and champagne go well together.

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles* In total sympathy with those who'd prefer to be in their heads. I am this way, too. I just see the BENEFIT of the other.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Always a good reminder to allow oneself to just BE instead of always thinking we have to DO every second of every day.

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

I so love that! There is a writing exercise I try to do all day, just experiencing something with all five senses, or at least trying to (tasting a lamp post: no thank you!).

But the teacher is right, us writers tend to get stuck in our head. I love that I have my morning yoga/meditation to keep focused on my body a small part of the day :)

Pk Hrezo said...

Well I tried commenting earlier and it gave me error, so if this is a dupe, please excuse.

I love your post today. It touches on something I've kinda sorta taught myself to do over the years. To be in every moment. Those of us blessed with all 5 senses working should really learn to employ them more, and at random times of the day. Even the most seemingly insignificant moment can be beautiful if we slow down and soak it in.

Awesome reminder, Hart!!

vbtremper said...

What a great point. I try to remember that in the moment, rather than getting annoyed at a distraction, to try to enjoy it.


Talli Roland said...

What a wonderful post! I'm so busy rushing around trying to get everything done, I often forget to savour all the wonderful moments in my life. Great reminder, Hart.

Powdered Toast Man said...

what about people that live to much in the moment and don't fantasize enough? I'm not saying I am one of those people, just throwing the question out there.

I wish I had a strawberry right now.

Laura said...

I reckon I'm no where near present for more that 5% of the day... oops. Apart from when I'm washing-up - because I hate doing it so for some reason my brain is always completely alert and focused then. again - oops.

Shallee said...

Thanks for this reminder! Sometimes my son also helps remind me to slow down and fully immerse myself in the moment!

Tamara said...

This is so true. I'm VERY guilty of living in my own head instead of in the world. And I have a really awesome family who is great about understanding the way I am. I have two out of four kids who spend a lot of time in their own heads, so they get it.

And my husband loves me enough to just shrug and accept it. But I know sometimes I neglect them because I'm off in my own world. And I know it would probably do me good to stop and really be in THIS world with them--fully--at least a few times a day. So, thanks for the reminder!! Great post!

Ella said...

Wow, we creative types really do live in our own heads! Thanks for sharing this! I am this way, if not words, than ideas for art! It is like I live in another dimension. Okay, maybe a bubble, lol. We truly are in our own little worlds~ Thanks for this reminder, great advice!