I was in the public library, where, near the entrance, where they put new books on display, was Helen Garner’s face on a book cover, looking at me intently. She seemed to be wondering whether I was worthy enough to read her superbly written prose.
I picked up the book. It was titled “Yellow Notebook Diaries Volume I 1978–1987.” I was in my early twenties during those years, still trying to figure out who I was and Helen had already written her first novel, “Monkey Grip.”
I opened it and read the first line…
“Maybe it’d be a good idea to start another diary, just to cream it off. I bought this yellow book today.”
— Helen Garner
It would be a good idea for me too, to start another diary too, where I can practice writing like Helen Garner. Where I can learn to notice little things, insights and idiosyncrasies of being human. It will be good if I could write a page a day. Maybe that’s too much of an ask. I know I will not be able to keep up the promise. I will take that pressure off right now. I will write whenever I can.
A writer’s job is to record what is happening around her. I need to pay attention to my things around me.
Pay Attention to What You Care About.
Pay attention to what you care about; care about what you pay attention to.
There is a connection between noticing and attention and caring and observations.
We often end up “noticing” or paying attention to things we really care about.
Because she believes, once you’ve mended something, if you didn’t have sentimental value attached to it before, then you certainly do once you’ve taken the time to care for it.
That might me the reason why I am so attached to the tapestries I have made. I can still remember what I was thinking when I embroidered a particular part of the tapestry. As if my thoughts got woven with the threads and became a part of the tapestry.
Rob Walker, talked about a student who made a planter for the cactus he cared for. He’d done that, on the theory that “by nurturing or caring for something, you pay more attention to it.”
Rob drew a diagram of care/notice cycle.
He says it is helpful to ask yourself:
- Is this thing I am paying attention to, do I actually care about?
- This (other) things I do really care about, am I giving it the attention I should?
- Am I noticing what I want to notice?
A Lone Shoe
One of Rob’s readers wrote:
For decades I’ve walked and hiked trails and sidewalks and driven country roads. Sometime… more often than seems plausible I come across a shoe. One shoe. Never a pair of shoe. I make up a story about how each one must have ended up this way or about the person who has the other shoe. I don’t remember all the shoes or all the stories. But I always remember to take time to ponder. — Phyllis
Practicing the Art of Noticing.
I am so surprised how all these stories are blending with Helen Garner’s way writing which is based on noticing.
Helen writes in her diary:
A man in metro, a 1950s relic but real, not an affectation — untidy, perfectly period clothes — lumber jacket, tight trousers, big worn, non-descript shoes. He was playing and exuisite basic rock-and-roll guitar and singing ‘Corinna’ through a little amp that looked like a white Daisy Duck radio.”
While driving to the veggie market I decide to notice something. Just to test my noticing skills. But what? I settled upon noticing shades of green.
A few days’ rain has turned every bit of vegetation into different shades of green. I noticed a tree with fresh big leaves. It’s a light green. The leafy kind of light green with a tinge of yellow at the edges. The grass on the ground has different shades too — deeper green, pastel green and eucalyptus green. The green on the shrubs has more red tone even orange at places. That is strange, I had never noticed before that each green has a tinge of some other colour at the edges. Sometimes yellow, sometimes red, sometimes purple.
I came home, rather pleased with myself. While putting the vegies away I heard a fly trapped somewhere in the kitchen. I couldn’t see it. I tuned myself to the sound, deciding to continue practicing the Art of Noticing.
Her buzzing is getting more desperate with time. Seems like it is trapped in the overhead exhaust fan above the stove. I open one screen of the canopy to let it out. I can’t even see it. That’s all I can do. It will have to find its own way out. No one can help you when you are trapped, more than opening the door. You have to find your own way out. I go to the bedroom to chane, by the time I come back the buzzing had stopped. I put the screen back. I might have saved a life today.
It wasn’t hard to notice things once you consciously make an effort.
Rob Walker’s book, The Art of Noticing — 131 Way To Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration and Discover Joy in the Every Day, could give you a good start.