Years ago, at a party on the Damariscotta River waterfront in Maine, I met an artist with whom I struck up a long, thoughtful conversation. We stayed in touch for quite a while, but what I remember most about him is this. He said, “I paint to teach myself see.” I was making my living acting at the time, so I responded, “I wonder if I act to teach myself to feel.”
Writing, I have to be actor, artist, and playwright, teaching myself to observe more mindfully, to listen to others and the sounds of the world, to experience my own emotions with awareness, and to notice textures and scents. A smell can trigger a memory more powerfully than anything else. The more I pay attention, the more seeds I have in the seed bank of ideas from which stories, scenes and characters grow.
As well as being part of the creative process, this practice of awareness pops the bubble of busyness and brings me into the present moment. It’s an eye-wide-open meditation I can do at any time, cracking the shell of the ordinary to reveal its depth.