Friday, February 4, 2011

To pay attention

"To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work." --Mary Oliver

I get several daily quotes via email. Often the platitudes are similar and not very interesting to me, but this one really struck a chord. Maybe it's because I've been writing poems most days since the beginning of the year and am more acutely aware of my surroundings and and my thoughts and looking at both more closely. Maybe it's because I've edited a couple of fiction manuscripts recently where the description was not handled so well; it was all too vague, too general to paint good word pictures for me.

And while I think Ms. Oliver may have intended her statement to encompass all of us human beings, I think this is particularly pertinent for those of us who are creatives, whether painters or sculptors or writers of poetry or prose. I'm coming to believe that authenticity in creation lies in the details. While the concept is important and some works are greatly enhanced by the big picture or big idea, paying attention to what we experience with the senses as well as we experience in our inner worlds and transcribing that to the page or the clay or the canvas is what it is all about.

It may well be that the most important question we can be asking ourselves as we do our creative work and as we make our way in the world is What am I paying attention to?

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