What? I Can Write!
“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson
Engagement, Part One: Put Your Senses to Work
Our digital age has made it easy for people to avoid personal interaction with others. Everyday activities once requiring social contact are now accomplished via computer screen. We are becoming an increasingly disengaged people. Writers must be a different breed, deliberately determined to buck this trend. Rod McKuen said, “A poet can’t afford to be aloof. The tools of his trade are the people he bumps up against.” This is equally true for writers in every genre.
As a writer you must know how to slow down and engage life in a more reflective manner. Put your senses to work.
First, cultivate a seeing eye. Good writers are keen observers of life and nature in all their myriad variety. Learn to open your eyes. Train yourself to see details and nuances that others miss. Watching passively from the sidelines is not enough, however; you have to be willing to jump into the fray; to feel, to risk, to embrace life in all its beauty and joy and messiness and unpredictability.
Second, cultivate a hearing ear. Rediscover the lost art of listening. People today tend to speak at rather than to each other, more intent on making their own point than in listening to the other person’s. Communication does not require agreement but it does require understanding. And understanding requires a listening mind, open and fully engaged in the conversation.
Finally, cultivate a curious mind. Don't blindly accept what you see and hear. Ask questions. Challenge yourself. Don’t settle for the rut of mental monotony. Open yourself to new avenues of inquiry and engage your mind in new subject areas. Explore new intellectual territory. Reading is one of the best ways to stimulate mental curiosity and stretch your mind. More on that in the next post.
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