A few days ago I woke up and began my day with a typical morning routine—let the dog outside, brew a pot of coffee, check emails, and so on. With a mountain of tasks looming ahead of me, I scurried around, grabbing car keys, filling bowls of water for the cat and dog, and turning on the air conditioner as I prepared to leave the house. While driving with my daughter, she burst out laughing at something I’d said aloud.
“What?” I turned in her direction, baffled by her reaction. “What’s so funny?”
I wrinkled my brow, swivelling my eyes back to the road. “Why?”
“You’re always telling stories.”
That made me pause. I slid her a sideways glance. “As in telling lies, or telling stories?”
My daughter smiled. “Stories.”
As the blur of the highway and the trees flashed by, I silently concurred my daughter was right. My life is a road map of characters and stories, either partially constructed or waiting in the wings. Ideas come at the most inconvenient moments and life seems so busy it’s hard for me to carve out time for writing. But I need details for my stories. The problem seems to be time and it’s becoming more of a challenge as I take on more and more things in my life. Worse than that, however, is the realization that running full-tilt day after day prevents me from soaking up the moments of each day. Small moments and details matter.
Following my conversation with my daughter, I decided to slow my pace a bit and pay closer attention to my surroundings—as a writer should and would normally do. That evening, as I walked to my dragon boat practice, I gave myself extra time to absorb my environment and engage my senses far more than I usually do as I rush from place to place. I noticed for the first time a small cafe tucked away on a side street and the sky-blue color of a store sign. I smelled the charcoal, musky scent of grilled meat from a nearby food cart, observed rows of white sailboats bobbing in the harbour and the restaurant patrons sitting at their tables. My ears perked up at the rustle of the tall grass lining the sidewalk. I felt the hard, unforgiving pavement beneath my water shoes and the slight sting of my shoulders chafing under the life jacket swinging across my back.
As my teammates and I set out on the lake, I sniffed the rotting, briny smell of algae as my hands dipped into the cool, dark blue water. White buoys dotted the surface of the lake and logs lined the shore. Mounds of bright green grass stood out, encircled with trees and benches. Scuff marks and water bottles cluttered the bottom of our boat as we raised and dipped our paddles into the water. I listened too, to the thud of paddles hitting the side of the boat, random shouts from passersby on shore and on nearby boats, and I concentrated on the sound of water rushing beneath us as we picked up speed— 8 knots, 10 knots, 12 knots . . .
The lesson I took away seemed obvious—look up and pay attention! But in reality, it’s a learned behaviour and a habit. One I lost sight of. I gently reminded myself to spend more time, every day, noticing these details so that I may enjoy them. Sometimes we all need a pat on the back, a prod, to step back, even just a bit, and see, feel, smell and listen to the life surrounding us. I learned this week how slowing down allows me to feel more relaxed and then details become clearer. When I make the time to write my next chapter, I won’t have to rely on long-term memory as much, for the details will be right in front of me—if only I take the time to see them. As a writer, I love details—they serve as the backbone of all stories. I cannot write without inspiration, which stems from experiences and how I perceive the details of those experiences. Time to stop and smell the roses, each and every one, because in that rose might live a ladybug, or a new scent or color . . .