Paying attention can help grow a writer’s craft

Photo by L Meyer

If you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to. We give things meaning by paying attention to them and so moving your attention from one thing to another can absolutely change your future

Jessica Crispin

For the most part, I haven’t spend a great deal of time considering what types of things I am paying attention to in my day to day life. If I am specifically trying a mindfulness technique or attempting to meditate, I am able to acknowledge the types of thought processes I engage in when I am not doing anything. More typically, I observe what I didn’t pay attention to or have some free floating awareness of the things I am attending to. Especially those negative thoughts or emotions that I may be hanging onto without conscious realization.

But when I am writing, I haven’t spent time thinking about the specifics of where my focus is or isn’t. This week, I embarked on an intensive writing course and part of the work we will be doing is not merely generative writing exercises but learning through a process of paying careful attention to the writings of select authors. And then paying attention to very specific details of my own writing process.

It’s easy to gloss over words, phrases and even entire paragraphs when reading a story and at times the same may be said for when you are writing one. Learning to focus one’s attention to nuance is proving to be a valuable skill. Eye-opening in more ways than one. The first hurdle I had to make was to push through that small mountain of insecurity that one experiences when sharing your writing. This can seem more insurmountable when you are working with a cadre of writers more experienced and who have published more than I have.

But by being asked to pay keen attention to what they are focused upon as readers has brought me new awareness and understanding. Suddenly instead of shying away from constructive criticism, I am craving these gems that fellow writers are sharing. I am coming to value where my story breaks down, or I suddenly inserted a new POV where it shouldn’t be. Hearing what others might do to stimulate character evolution in something I have written, or thinking about where an inciting incident should be placed from different vantage points has served to teach me more than I set out to learn.

However, there was one clear takeaway from this experience that quickly became evident.

If we spend too much time worrying about how others are perceiving what we have created, we will miss an incredible journey of learning about what others have to share with us. These growth opportunities may not come often but when they appear you must seize the moment. Take risks. Seek out helpful criticism. Learn the subtle art of accepting the wisdom of others who have much to teach you about how to pay attention to your own work. And the lessons from this experience have shed light that could likely shine on many aspects of life. Not just writing.

Stay healthy and safe!

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