'We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing.'
So says Anne Lamott in her book Almost Everything: Notes on hope.
And how right she is. How can you write if you're not curious about something? And how you can write if you don't pay attention to what's going on around you?
Curiosity leads as to introspection. What makes us tick? Why do we do the things we do and think that way? Why did one of your friends say, in the middle of a good fun knees-up, drinks flowing and laughter echoing around the room, that she was going to climb Mt Everest when you've only known her to tackle a mini sand dune at a west coast beach and she hates the cold?
Was she serious or just joking - and why would she be either of those things?
One of the best ways of paying attention for me is to stop what I'm doing, clean my glasses so I can see properly, and sit down to look out of the window. The weather was stormy today with intermittent lightning flashes and growls of thunder and bursts of full on rain.
When I sat down, the sky was brighter, the worst of the storm was over, and the sea out my window was flat and dull green like unpolished greenstone, the sunlight catching the bright white wings of birds floating on the waves while the skyline was dull and flat grey like a stage backdrop. The birdbath on the lawn was overflowing and a blackbird was enjoying a good old time, flapping about and spraying diamond-glistening droplets of water everywhere.
I probably won't write about what I saw today, apart from here. It was more about my stopping to look to see what was going on, to wonder why the weather was behaving that way and to feel the joy of the bird having his extravagant and indulgent bath.
As we get older we seem to lose that 'paying attention' thing and our time is spent on those busy everyday things like looking out for the kids, driving the car, fixing food and trying not to burn yourself or the dinner, getting to work and paying attention to that (or not) ... but as writers, we
need to turn our antennae to the natural world and what's going on around us, really look and see and feel, and take some time to pay attention to those things that nurture and inspire our writing and creativity, to listen to snippets of conversation and to wonder why your friend is so up front about Mt Everest that she's hooked up with a mountaineer who will teach her how to use all of the alpine equipment she is now ordering online.
And if you're sitting there, being kinda quiet and paying attention for long enough, I'll bet some cat will come along and sit in your lap for a bit. Now there's a bonus and a treat.