I’m constantly aware of the ways that being a writer enriches my experience of life, and the run-up to Christmas feels like a great time to think about three gifts of writing in the House of Dreams. Today, the gift of stillness.
Years ago, a friend of mine told me she’d seen me in the supermarket, but hadn’t said hello. She said I was just looking at the apples, but with such a quality of stillness and concentration that she didn’t want to break the spell.
When she said it, I remembered that moment. I had been looking at the apples, but I wasn’t thinking about them. Their shapes and colours had caught my eye and held me there, but my mind was open, unfocused, receptive.
The great American writer, Henry Miller, said that an artist was someone who had antennae, who knew how to ‘hook up to the cosmos.’ The elements that made up a poem or novel or any work of art were already in the air, waiting to be given voice, and that explained why themes and discoveries tended to break at the same time in different parts of the world.
Writing teaches you to be receptive. The more you do it, the more sensitive your antennae become. In dreams and daydreams we can more easily ‘hook up to the cosmos’ but it can happen any time, even when we’re doing the most ordinary things, such as supermarket shopping.
In these moments, time disappears; there is nothing but openness, and presence. You are completely ‘in the now,’ not thinking about the past or the future or your shopping list; not thinking about other people, or yourself. Not thinking about your writing, or work, or any of the things that usually anchor your mind.
You would not want this to happen all the time – that would be madness – but in this busy, busy world, for a lot of people it never happens at all. If you want to be happier, they say, ‘Slow down,’ be more ‘in the now.’ When a writer’s mind puts its antennae up, that is a little bit of bliss.
Next week I’ll be giving thanks for another of the gifts of writing. I do hope you’ll call by.
In the meantime, writers, do you have these ‘apple’ moments too?