Having made some rather grand statements about returning to my book and possibly converting it into a full-blown memoir rather than a series of alphabetical stories, I’ve STILL not managed to write a single word. I have, however, jotted down some thoughts about possible themes on a couple of sheets of paper and I’ve done a bit of prep work for this weekend’s workshop.
Meanwhile I still grapple with the time issue, or lack of it. I heard Ruby Wax talking on radio – she’s over here performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – about the modern-day epidemic of busyness. We all rush around trying to cram it all in – from working, doing the daily chores and socialising to culture-vulturing, learning new skills, keeping fit and keeping up with everything and everyone. Ruby commented that many of us get stuck in fight and flight mode. Primitive man would have been flooded with adrenalin when fleeing from a wild boar, but his/her nervous system would have calmed down once the danger passed.
In today’s world many people live in overdrive without ever coasting along in neutral. So I was interested to read about how some of the big companies are buying colouring books for their staff to help them handle the stress of the modern workplace. Evidence shows that colouring can actually change the brain and induce calm. It’s a simple non-competitive activity that anyone can do, anywhere.
And that’s the good news: for all the madness and constant activity and stimulation, there are plenty of initiatives that put a bit of Zen back into our lives. From meditation to laughter yoga, singing, knitting, colouring and being in nature, there are plenty of opportunities for us to claw back some down time. When push comes to shove we have to make the leap from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). In my view time is the most precious commodity of all. A crowded day that involves rushing from thing to thing is never satisfying because we’re not fully present to any one thing; it’s just a blur of seamless activity and thinking.
So for me JOMO is the key to getting back to writing. Less is definitely more even if it means missing the latest film, saying no to lunch with friends or skipping the house work. Squeezing in the writing around all the other stuff merely inhibits the creative flow and becomes a pointless and frustrating exercise. So I’ve decided to ring-fence a day every weekend for writing.
I didn’t manage to pull it off this weekend but I did take part in an afternoon of Slow Art at a local gallery on Saturday afternoon. Apparently the average time a gallery visitor spends in front of a work of art is 17 seconds. The idea behind Slow Art Day, which took place in venues right around the world (see http://www.slowartday.com/2015-venues/) is ‘to attend and look at five pieces of art slowly’ and then meet up with the other participants over refreshments to discuss the experience. The Gallery at the Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre (almost on my doorstep) was one of just two Melbourne locations hosting a Slow Art Day event.
We looked at two pictures by well-known children’s book artist Graeme Base, and three landscapes by Welsh-born artist Daniel Crawshaw. I’ve probably been a 17-seconder all my life – especially at the big blockbuster exhibitions – so sitting for ten minutes t in front of a work of art was a completely new and enriching experience.
It was interesting comparing notes with my fellow Slow Art goers over a delicious afternoon tea where I applied a similar mindful approach to savouring the cool, silky, creamy texture of the vanilla slice. Yum! The pictures evoked different emotional states in all of us. In the absence of curators’ captions, we invented our own meanings, narratives and interpretations.
One of Daniel Crawshaw’s pictures was of trees in what looked like a rainforest. The more I looked, the more texture, colour and clarity I perceived and the more the light changed as if the painting were a living breathing object. After a while I wanted to explore – possibly take refuge in – the spaces between the trees. Maybe I need to take my pen and notebook and sit under a tree in my local park. Who knows how that might shape and influence my writing… if I give it a little time.