As we enter the hurrying, scurrying time of year known as “the holidays,” I thought it timely to write about the much-neglected virtue of presence.
The art of being present - in the present – can seem unattainable in this Internet age. We check our email while chatting with our daughter. We text while having breakfast with our husband. We watch the big screen in the restaurant while lunching with a friend. We are seldom totally present.
The distractions available to us today follow us into our homes, into our lives, and into our souls. Distractions and being present do not mesh. Part of our dance with distraction is that we are constantly pressured to put ourselves “out there.” We must blog, we must market, we must chat on Facebook, pin captivating photos on Pinterest, and post witty tweets in 140 characters or less. But as writers, as creators, much of our best work is not done “out there.” It’s done “in here.”
When Mrs. Griffin called roll in my two-room elementary school, we children answered, “Present!” It meant, or should have meant, that we were there, in the moment, totally and completely ready to learn, ready to listen, ready to be with our classmates.
Amidst the noise of the world, consider the gift of finding yourself. Move to a window or go outside or just sit down in the hallway before you begin to write. Breathe. Enter into yourself. Be present. Just for a moment.
After you are present with yourself, be present with your writing and with your characters. It’s not efficient to write a paragraph, then Google for five minutes. It’s not reasonable to write a page, then check your email. When you next sit down to write, say aloud, “Present!” just as my classmates and I did for Mrs. Griffin. Be there, totally and completely ready to write, ready to listen, ready to be with your characters...and yourself...without distractions.
Your writing will be from a you who is present. Amazingly, when you are present you are also more productive and that productivity is of more value. Your words will ring original and your characters ring true.
Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold wrote the award-winning “homegrown treasures” column prior to penning eleven award-winning picture books. Marsha recently contracted with Neal Porter Books for two new picture books and Kate O'Sullivan of Houghton Mifflin for another, coming out in 2016. She grew up on a Kansas farm, but today creates imaginative worlds and wacky characters in northern California surrounded by her garden, deer, hummingbirds, turkeys, oaks, and redwoods. Marsha's course Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books has helped many published and aspiring writers to write stronger characters. You may read about her books, school and Skype visits, and life at www.marshadianearnold.com.
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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