Time for stories

Courtesy of ‘Universe Today’

I recently came across this post: More Stories, Less data from Fevered Mutterings, Mike Sowden’s blog, which I wanted to  share with you.

The point of the post is perhaps a little slippery to grasp, but is perhaps best summed up by this lovely quote from it:

The constellations in the night sky are stories invented by ancient Greeks. They looked up, they saw points of light, and they joined them together in the most wonderfully human ways that still mean something to us. Who hasn’t stood on a hillside as a kid and delighted as a cluster of random stars turned into a shape that their mind tried to fit into a picture – “look, there’s Orion’s belt – and there’s his sword. Do you see it?”.

I worry about our ability to stand there patiently, in the dark, until we see it.

I feel that there is a lot of truth in this: that in the modern world, especially in the strange cyber-world where social media rules, that we have lost some of the time for contemplation; for real thought. Lately, I’ve found that some of my best ideas and writing have happened when I am forcibly removed from those pressures, and have the luxury to stare out the window for a while with no other external pressures.

When I was visiting Namibia last year, there was a period of about two or three hours during the day when it was just too hot to do anything, and so we, and the locals, simply rested. It was impossible to sleep, but it was valuable time out. Your brain just had that time to saunter around a few ideas in a very casual way. It was cathartic.

I suspect that this is part of what Thoreau was writing about when he wrote the classic ‘Walden’. Not just a simplification of our lives, but also by reconnection with the real world, a chance to really think for ourselves without all that mental clutter.

How is this to be achieved in daily life, which seems to become busier and more demanding all the time? I’ve no idea, but if you have, please let me know.

I suspect that there is something in that ancient Chinese saying “When you cut wood, cut wood. When you draw water, draw water.” That is, when you have time to think, to assimilate all that raw data which might become a story, then just do that. Try to quieten all those other voices which are demanding you think about that phone call you need to make, or what you’re having for dinner. It’s almost meditative: that unforced focus on a task.

As a natural multi-tasker, I’m pretty bad at this kind of focus, but I’d like to try and give it a go in the next few weeks to see if I am able to sculpt some ideas into something worthwhile. Arrange those carbon atoms to become a diamond.

What are your thoughts? Do you need time to draw together data and craft a story out of it, or do they bubble away in your subconscious and come to the surface already formed?


7 thoughts on “Time for stories

  1. So true – and of course I love Walden and sometimes wish I could just live out in the woods for a while. 🙂 Instead, I go for walks in the woods on the weekends (the crazy dog helps with forcing us into that). Nature always inspires me and it really helps to get away from the computer and all the distractions as much as possible. It has the effect of filling me up in a way so that then I can hopefully spill it all out onto the page later.

    • Yes, I know just what you mean! When I’ve had something annoying happen, just spending a few minutes in the garden seems to help. Makes you even more concerned about the prevailance of Nature Deficit Disorder really – there would be no ‘time out’…:(

  2. I definitely need time when I’m not doing anything to just let my mind do its thing – whether that’s go over something that’s bothering me so I can get it out of the way, or let my mind drift over my story. Problem is, for a long time, I got to thinking that taking that time was being lazy; after all, I wasn’t doing anything PRODUCTIVE then. I’m learning – and remembering – that productivity shouldn’t be the only goal. And that if don’t give our brains a chance to unclutter themselves, we will never be free to go to the next step in our creativity.
    Great post, Kasia! 🙂

    • Thanks! That drive to be productive all the time is so familiar. I think it may be partly borne of all those things we ‘ought’ to do – get fit in only twenty minutes a day; spend half an hour meditating; spend time on social media every day; write every day etc etc. There are only so many minutes in a day, and so much we try to stuff in, it’s so easy to overload!
      I loved the idea on Sabrina Garie’s blog recently about Artist’s Dates – taking time once a week to do something which stimulates our creativity, which might be just taking time out to declutter. Maybe that’s just one more demand on our time though?
      I did a Time Managament Seminar recently, which was of dubious value, but it did make clear to me that I’m not always good at firmly alotting time to do ‘time-out’ enjoyable things, which are just as important as all the other stuff.
      Hope your decluttering is working well and those creative juices are flowing!

  3. “I think it may be partly borne of all those things we ‘ought’ to do”

    Yes – exactly. I always say I won’t live my life by “shoulds” and then what do I do?

    I’d heard about artists dates although I think I heard about it from flipping through one of Julia Cameron’s books. I agree that it’s necessary but could easily become burdensome. And yet… Isn’t that what they recommend for marriages, especially after kids come along: to carve out time for dates, to stay connected to each other? So why, as artists, wouldn’t we do the same to keep connected to our creativity? Hmmm…. that bears more thinking…


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