Kate Flora here, on a topic I revisit on the blog at least once a year–the importance of refilling the well of creativity and remembering to pay attention to the world around me. Right now, I’m enjoying my annual escape to San Francisco. From a window atop Russian Hill, I can watch the morning fog swallow up the city below me, eat the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica building and then spit them out again. I have a rhythm to the days–work in the morning, walk in the afternoon, see friends in the evening. All of these events remind me to be aware, to notice, to think about what I’m seeing through new lenses. The lens of me on vacation. The lens of me as a reader, remembering what things I admire in the works of other writers–how vivid description or the careful rendering of a small detail can make a whole scene come alive. The lenses of my characters, who see the world differently from me. Burgess, whose mother make him an observer; Thea who orders her world through language.
These observations span a wide range, from the macro–fog engulfing the city, to the micro–the way a strange shape dropped from a tree onto the ground can become poetry. What are the textures of the tree bark? What does the trunk of a tree fern look like? How can a single while calla lily stand out in a mass of hot pink camellias?
I’m a country mouse, so there is also the world of sound. The almost silent electric cars that creep up. The masses of green parrots holding forth in the trees across the street, almost unseen when I look up until I realize those aren’t red flowers but red beaks. A cackling mass of blackbirds swirling and looping above downtown at dusk, forming and reforming and changing direction like precision pilots, so perfectly in symmetry as they swoop above the workers heading home that I expect any moment they’ll start skywriting and sending us messages from bird world.
And of course, because the people we visit with are readers, my phone is filled with photos of things I want to remember, books I have to pick up and read, the names of contacts, and ideas for workshops, writing, and things to follow up on.
This visit reminds me that I can do the same thing at home. There is a world there to be observed as well. It’s just that sometimes I need to leave my desk to come back to it, renewed, refreshed, and ready to settle back into my obsession, my pleasure, my life–storytelling. Only now I hope I can remember to look out those windows, walk those yards and woods, stare out at the seabirds and stop and pay attention to the hawks and robins.
And finally, because one of the things I’ve talked about here in San Francisco is storytelling, I urge you to watch this short TED talk by Andrew Stanton: