Pay attention: how many times I have written in the margins of a student’s (your?) work: what is the purpose here? What is your reason for writing this? What story are you really telling in telling this story? Where does this connect to the human spirit, to the human experience? To you? To your readers?

Let me apologize for being so much of a WASP midwesterner raised in a matriarchy of working women and a traveling father. I value function above all else, and I see function, form, and content as synonymous. I believe that only by connecting these things to words can the words connect to the world. And the world needs them. I absolutely hate “free writing.” I can’t find a purpose for it. Don’t try and convince me otherwise: I can’t change.

Writing gives me faith and it takes faith for me to write. It’s not a gift, it’s a skill. After a lifetime of doing it, it becomes second nature, a flow, a constant conversation with the universe, a call and response at times, but definitely like sitting down with a benevolent friend for a good talmudic argument. But what about this, but what about this, but what about this…? We discuss our perceptions with others in order to arrive at the truth. To achieve a skill, one must discuss one’s experience with others and risk a challenge to one’s perception of it. Even if the “others” are those winds of collective unconscious. (In many ways, revision is a conversation, a loving embrace of what is not perfect, because that doers not prevent your love for the work.) Sometimes there is name-calling… You idiot world!

I am the source of what I write and I walk through the world like a flesh-and-blood recorder, analog not digital, multi-faceted not binary, a pulsing, emotional sponge. I walk through emptiness and the emptiness holds me. (That’s from Lucretius!) I am in my element when I am asking questions and I am in hell when I plummet into being judgmental. I can feel myself burning there. My own ignorance feels like a force that prevents me, but there isn’t life enough to master everything. All I can really do is pay attention.

Which brings me back to the purpose of this blog piece, which is purpose. Matthew Crawford, in The World Beyond Your Head, says it so well: “…it is not by freely constructing meaning according to my psychic need and projecting generous imaginings onto others that I escape my self-enclosure. It is by acquiring new objects of attention, which is to say, real objects of love that provide a source of energy. As against the need to transform the world into something ideal, the erotic nature of attention suggests we orient ourselves by a selective affection for the world as it is, and join ourselves to it.”

And so I want to ask you here to remember why you write, what you love about doing it, and the things you write about, and to know that you are a valuable resource of feelings and observations that adds to the world. You are not alone in a garrett, you are a part of something larger. Let your work lead you out to join the world.

Pay Attention
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Darrah Cloud

Darrah Cloud’s most recently produced plays include: Our Suburb, at Theater J in Washington, DC, What’s Bugging Greg? and Joan The Girl Of Arc, at Cincinnati Playhouse, and the musical Makeover in development at the University of Iowa. Also in the works: a new play, The Amateur Jesus, and lyrics for Sabina, a musical adaptation of Willy Holtzman’s play. Past productions include: HeartLand, The Stick Wife, the stage adaptation of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, The Sirens, the stage adaptation of The Boxcar Children, The Mud Angel, Braille Garden and American Siddhartha. She recently won the Macy’s Prize for Theatre for Young Audiences. She has written numerous movies for CBS and NBC, is a proud alum of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and New Dramatists, and is the co-chair of Half Moon Writers, the development wing of the Half Moon Theatre in the Hudson Valley.

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One thought on “Pay Attention

  • March 27, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Ah, I remember you. It’s so good to hear you, to find you here. And to feel the way you think and write. Thank you, Darrah.

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