paying attention


    In life, most days, it’s not so much what happens as it is what we notice, what we choose to remember and carry with us.

    A week or two ago, I noticed Julia Cameron’s The Writing Diet on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. She is the author of The Artist’s Way, a book that has been significant to me at several different junctures of my life, so I browsed through this new (to me) book and was intrigued, since she speaks to me and I’m carrying around more weight than I want to. I chose to come back to our neighborhood bookstore, The Regulator, to have them order it for me, so I didn’t get it until late last week.

    One of the key components to her approach to both art and losing weight is something she calls “morning pages.” No real mystery. The name says what it is: get up in the morning and write, first thing, three pages of whatever comes out and then go on about your day. What I learned before, when I wrote every morning as I began to come to terms with my depression and as I have written now for about a week, is my early morning scribbling is a living prompt, in the same way I’ve been given writing prompts in classes over the years: a call to pay attention.

    Interesting phrase, isn’t it? Pay attention.

    I must pay attention in the same way, perhaps, that I paid the man at the bookstore for my inspiring little volume – give something up for something I want. If I want to pay attention to life as it happens around me, it’s going to cost me. And it’s going to pay off in ways I seldom am able to imagine. Which leads me back to my opening sentence: in life, most days, it’s not so much what happens as it is what we notice, what we choose to remember and carry with us.

    I clicked over to YouTube tonight, in search of a video we had talked about at work today and found a selection of four short films from the National Film Board of Canada (gotta love those Canadians) that were competing at the Cannes Film Festival. They range in length from about two and a half minutes to a little over nine, all of them incredibly well made and imaginative. As I watched, I began to think of all the love and work and play and art and sweat and struggle and joy and hope and despair and determination that went into each of these projects, knowing full well they would only be seen by a relatively small group of people. You don’t get famous making two-minute movies.

    But you can tell a great story.

    And, when you find someone telling a great story you should pay attention long enough to suggest to everyone you can that they might do the same.


    Leave a Reply