Writing that is noticing

A good pen or pencil and a well-made notebook are a genuine climax technology: simple, sustainable, fixable, lasting, and extraordinarily adaptable. It seems a pity to throw it entirely away by omitting to teach people how to use it, simply because a new, wonderful, and infinitely less sustainable technology has come along. I hate to think of a writerly great-grandchild silenced in the midst of a story by the failure of her power-source, dumb as an unplugged machine. Well, she’ll swear, and find a pencil, and start laboriously printing, and presently reinvent cursive. Nothing, not even our incalculable wrong-headedness, can keep human beings from telling stories.*
(Ursula Le Guin)

There is that in me … I do not know what it is … but I know it is in me.**
(Walt Whitman)

If we are going to write good stories we must be noticers, working with what is there rather than against it, especially the difficulties and problems we face in life. Joseph Campbell claims:

Privation and suffering alone open the mind to what is hidden from others.^

Whether the bad things of life or the good, there is no better way of noticing them than to write about them. In noticing, we will be surprised at what becomes possible:

A very original man must shape his life, make a schedule that allows him to reflect, and study, and create.^^

Writing without a purpose other than to notice more moves us beyond the impasse that thinking alone can come across, or even create:

Something supersedes thinking, despite its truly awesome power When existence reveals itself as existentially intolerable, thinking collapses in on itself. In such situations – in the depths – its noticing, not thinking, that does the trick.*^

Austin Kleon moves this thought along further, pointing out the connection between our lives and what we notice and, so, what we are able to change:

If you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to.^*

I have have been encouraged to write more than my morning journal pages, to write with noticing rather than thinking as the purpose.

So far, my experience has been, writing what I notice – the things I’m reading, the things around me, how I am feeling – produces more than enough, so much, I’ll need to lose some. But that’s okay, there’s plenty to keep.

(*From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)
(**From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(^From Joseph Campbell and Billy Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(Gary Wills, quoted in Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(*^From Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.)
(^*From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)

One thought on “Writing that is noticing

  1. Pingback: “Writing that is noticing” — more wisdom from Ursula Le Guin via THIN|SILENCE – Séamus Sweeney

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