The life of a writer seems almost extravagant at times.
I don’t mean that I sleep in every morning, wake up only when I feel like it, then walk or drive around in search of inspiration for writing.
I don’t spend hours sitting outside an overly expensive coffee shop sipping a mocha latte and writing of the romance and beauty of life.
I don’t have that luxury.
If you are a writer, you probably don’t have that luxury either.
Few writers can afford to give up their “day job.”
I’m referring to a different kind of extravagance, the development of a writer’s inner life that can make all the difference in our approach to our writing …
… and interactions with the world around you.
The Importance of Being Present as a Writer
Are you developing the art of being present in your life as a writer?
Have you discovered the extravagant freedom of this approach to living and writing?
The freedom to stop in the midst of a day or a meal or a meeting, to look around and experience the moment in full.
Living and looking at the world from the eyes of a writer or any kind of artist/creative gives you the ability to pause in the middle of something crazy or hectic or wonderful and see it from new eyes.
It encourages you to stop and take a step back …
To gently take hold of the moment and turn it so you can absorb it from different angles, gazing and refocusing until you’re sure you have grasped its essence and beauty before setting it down …
And, going forward, always having that moment a part of you.
I think this extravagance makes a few things possible that would not otherwise be.
Like seeing beauty in sorrow, or humor in tragedy.
Because it is there.
Looking at life from the eyes of a writer allows you to be fully present.
I recall first hearing the concept of being “fully present” while attending a neonatal resuscitation class with my mom.
The teacher urged us student-midwives and doulas to be fully centered and present while working with a woman in labor, that we owed it to her …
… and we owed it to ourselves as well.
Perhaps you are trying to hone the art of being present in your professional life as a teacher or nurse or UPS delivery driver.
But this practice will also definitely help you as a writer, an artist, musician, or crafter.
What is Being Present?
Being present is allowing yourself to be fully in the moment, to see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the scents and just feel it all – the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.
Who knows but that there isn’t something wonderful waiting to be born in that moment?
Something that, if we were looking in another direction, focusing on something else, or allowing ourselves to be distracted … we would miss entirely and one day mourn the loss.
There have been many times I have missed something important just because I was going too fast.
Modern life, even with all its conveniences, pushes us to go faster, to accomplish more, to finish earlier … yet at the end of the day, we still wonder where the time has gone.
Let us not make the mistake of coming to the end of life and wondering where the time has gone.
Practice being present and honing that part of your inner life as a creative person.
Stopping. Listening. Breathing.
Experiencing things to their full.
Looking at more than what is happening on the surface.
Thinking deeply and reflecting on an event or occurrence or sight.
And of course, taking the time to write about it.
It all takes time. But it’s time well spent. Time you won’t regret or wonder what was missed.
Tips on Being Present as a Writer
During much of 2020, we were faced with the necessity of minimizing our activities.
If your schedule looked anything like mine in late spring and summer of 2020, it had never been so empty.
Then, in the fall, my uncle, who contracted COVID and passed away in late November. My husband had been his in-home caregiver, and had been in direct contact with him, so that meant quarantine.
My daughter had to stay home from school just as things were starting to open up again.
It was a challenging time, as my husband was quite sick for over a week, and then, although he was quarantining in the room, I fell ill as he began to improve.
We both tested negative, so maybe it was just the flu.
While I enjoyed the quieter schedule during that time, it felt lonely to not get a text or DM from a single friend or acquaintance asking how we were doing.
But looking back, I treasure that November isolation.
For one, it enabled me to write 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo and mentor my older son while he participated in the writing challenge for the first time
And while my daughter was stuck at home, the two of us binged on a TV show together, staying up late in the living room, with popcorn and dark chocolate and Thanksgiving leftovers.
As things started opening up again, I had to make a conscious effort not to let my schedule grow so crowded that I could not find time in my week to be present.
While it might be a challenge, think about steps you can take to slow down in some way:
- Clear a few non-necessities from your schedule.
- Give yourself space to develop your inner life as a writer.
- Tune in more deeply to what is going on around you.
- Really look. Really listen.
- Develop rhythms that work for you and your schedule.
- Cut down on time spent browsing social media.
Really, when it comes to finding ways to be present as a writer and as a creative, you might just need to figure out what works best for you.
There are plenty of tips on being more present, but not all of them will be practical for your life and schedule.
Not all of them, but some of them.
And as you take even small steps into this inwardly extravagant life, you’ll find that your ideas are more creative and your thoughts are more centered.
You will find that from the mulch and mess of living, you are gaining things you can use in your creative craft: stories, concepts, patterns, images.
You will find new ways to weave words and thoughts, colors and symmetry, into beautiful things for yourself …
and for the world around you.