I'm not talking about the sitting-in-the-classroom type of paying attention, but the paying attention that has you notice a heron at the far-end of a pond, or seeing something about human nature in the way a woman talks to her son.
This kind of paying attention is often honed when someone declares a desire to Write.
I've recently met someone who is not a Writer but she love words and she wants to know how to use them in a way that lets her communicate to people with purpose, warmth and humor.
And after declaring this, she told me how she's paying closer attention to everything around her. She's taking in the world more intimately and noticing things: the natural world around her, for starters. Details, small things. And she told me this with a smile on her face and a glow in her cheeks.
A Great Movie Line on Writing and Paying Attention That Makes Me Verklempt
Years ago I watched the movie Il Postino, a fictionalized version of a time when the poet Pablo Nerudo was exiled to a small Italian island. In it, there's the sweet but dim-witted postman who asks Neruda (and this is going by memory):
"Seniore Neruda, how does a person become a poet?"
Neruda: "You take a long slow walk on the beach and look at everything."
I thought that was one of the best pieces of writing and life advice ever. Incidentally, my main memory of Brenda Ueland's good book If You Want To Write is her recommendation that a writer walk about an hour a day as part of their practice. I think she walked six miles a day.
So, let's say you were to buy a 69 cent tiny notebook and drop it in your bag or a back pocket and move through the world imagining yourself as someone who writes. How will you witness the world around you differently?
What will paying closer attention to everyday details add to your life?
You might be amazed at the show that's ongoing around you all the time.
Another recent post featuring Pablo Neruda: How to Write a Book Review.