Saturday, March 26, 2011

Writers: look up and enjoy the view

I live in the mountains of southern California, and I often go for hikes on the trails behind our home. One day I was mid-step when I noticed the baby rattler below my feet. I finished my step and raced down the mountain. I swear, that baby rattler was chasing me (hubby thinks I'm crazy and dramatic, but that's a topic for another day).

Since then, I've kept my head down when I'm hiking. I'm on the lookout for coyotes, bobcats, and the snake who is now probably full grown and wants to kill me (See? I'm not dramatic at all).

Last week I was hiking with my eyes trained on the ground for danger when I realized I was missing out. By keeping my head down, looking for peril, I was ignoring the beautiful surroundings. The rolling green hills, the brand new poppies sprouting through the rich soil, and the breeze whispering through the sage.

So what does this have to do with writing? I tend to obsess over manuscripts, keeping my head down and reworking the words until they're just right. When I do this, I miss out on the view that surrounds me.

Our writing trails may be rutted and rocky, and we'll experience hills and valleys, but sometimes it's too easy to focus on the dirt and miss the wild flowers. A. Victoria Mixon offers this profound advice in an interview: life, have one.

How about you? Do you sometimes keep your head down, working hard, and forget to look up and enjoy the scenery?



57 comments:

  1. A perfect analogy. I, too, keep my eyes on the ground too much. Lately, I've thought this very thing. Look up. Enjoy the view. (Though I think if there were snakes around I'd be on the lookout!)

    My experience in southern California was a summer in beautiful San Diego in 1960, when I was 20. I loved it!

    Have a great weekend. Enjoy the scenery--and the writing!!

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  2. Great analogy. My Dad always used to tell me to enjoy the ride. I think this is especially important in writing.

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  3. Baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than full grown adults. So I don't blame you!!! But that said, yes, sometimes it's hard to remember the big picture, and the beauty surrounding you when you are so focused on the "dirt" - great post as always!! :D

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  4. Yup, sometimes you gotta stop and smell the roses.

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  5. I try to see everything. When I'm writing I know when I need play time, and observing my surroundings, especially watching people, helps with my writing. Snakes!

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  6. I'm afraid I'm guilty of this. In my effort to focus on my writing and get "there" I often forget to do anything else. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  7. I think as writers we're all driven like that. We all have to remind ourselves to enjoy life. When I have social events or family time, I try my hardest to enjoy that time and realize that breaks from my writing will only help to gain perspective. But it's an easy trap to fall into. Thanks for reminder.

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  8. Oh that's so funny-I was doing this just this morning. I live in Florida, and well I caught myself enjoying my surroundings for just too long, and thought, oh I better watch out for those baby snakes again, and well they sure can put a damper on things with having to watch your every move, so I sat back up on the front porch for safety. Anyways, lucky I have a beach just a street away I can visit- thanks for the reminder Julie. Lets all really enjoy life, and I mean really step away from the key board! In my case the beach is really stepping away, and the front porch are just my mini breaks. By the way, that is really a beautiful photo.

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  9. A great reminder, thank you! We took an unexpected diversion today due to some roadworks and drove along a gorgeous route. There were loads of weeping willow trees just coming into leaf....bliss!

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  10. 'Life, have one' - that may be the most perfect advice ever!

    Family & work come before writing, so for the most part, my head is up :)

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  11. that looks a lovely place to go walking, I was there was somewhere like that here. We have a trail right at the back of our house though which is great for the dog and our local park is beautiful. We're going there when Miss h wakes up. You can't beat being outside, it's a perfect compliment to the writing lifestyle and although it sometimes can look like all we do is sit at a computer there are many other hours in the day spent enjoying the view outside. I've had run ins with snakes too :)

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  12. Hi Julie .. ah the question I was going to ask - they are worse than a grown rattler .. not nice.

    I have done that too - as a six year old, a snake unwound under my little feets and I ran to the bus stop - the poor girl who was looking after my brother in his pushchair .. had a tough act to follow .. I didn't stop .. never liked snakes since - though they are part of life .. so I accept now - well usually!

    Beautiful part of the world you live in .. with a few mini eyes along the way! Cheers Hilary

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  13. I like this analogy. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy the view!

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  14. When it comes to snakes, I don't think you're too dramatic at all. :)

    This is great advice, writers can be very driven sometimes. But it's also good to have fun and socialize. Writing is such a solitary thing so we actually need "life" to regroup and refresh -- and get new story ideas!

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  15. I read this on the last five minutes of a rushed lunch break. It was one of those hurried mornings and I was feeling ragged. After reading your story, I lifted my gaze and spent time catching up with some of my wonderful customers rather than grouching my way through the afternoon. Thank you for the inspiration - you changed my day :)
    Lx

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  16. Hi, Julie. I have the smallest of windows with which to work on my laptop. It's very easy for me to get on at 4:00 pm and stay on until about 8:00 pm during the week, pausing only for dinner and cleaning the kitchen (I'm up at 3 and work 11 hours a day).
    The thing I notice is how easy it is to forget that I haven't spent a lot of time with my wife and kids. That's what I want to keep my "mental" eyes trained on.
    Thanks for the reminder. :)

    -Jimmy

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  17. Beautiful picture! Looks all nice and warm. Here, the sun is out, but the temp is somewhere in the 30's. Looking forward to warmer weather. I like when it gets in the 70's. Not too hot, not too cool.

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  18. Whenever I take day trips with my friends (which come with the inevitable bus ride - a product of living in a city), I get scolded at for not looking at the scenery... so yeah, I do it both literally and probably in the analogy sense too.

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  19. I'm guilty of the same thing. Great post.

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  20. Sometimes, I forget to look around too. Gosh we could miss so much. Thanks for the reminder.

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  21. The mountains of southern Cal? *jealous* I think I tend to look down, worried about squeezing in writing when I'm not at my day job, instead of appreciating the joy of writing. Great post!

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  22. I'm the same way -- too busy looking down that I forget to enjoy the scenery. The best part of writing is to enjoy whichever part of the journey you're on.

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  23. Thanks for a great post & analogy -- a great reminder for writing and life, too. But yikes, rattlers....I don't blame you for looking down! I grew up in So. Cal., terrified of rattlers and black widows! Here in Maine? black flies and moose! :)

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  24. We are always on the lookout for bobcats in SoCal. When the hubby and I went for a walk today, we spotted one sunning itself on the pavement near our development. It was freak but really cool.

    I try to keep my head up, but too often, it's easier to look down and pretend I don't see the obstacles before me. Great post!

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  25. What great advice! I often keep my head down on my writing and forget to look at the bigger picture.

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  26. Yes! It's so hard sometimes to look beyond our busy schedule and our to-do list. We have to look up and enjoy life, or we'll definitely miss out! Thanks for this reminder, Julie!

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  27. Since I live in L.A. if I'm looking down when I'm walking it's usually to see if there's any money or anything interesting on the ground.

    Having spent a lot of time in the mountains back in Tennessee I know what you're saying. I tend to be pretty observant about my surroundings, especially when I'm driving. I often miss things that people say to me, hints and cues, and body language. I need to pay closer attention to people.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

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  28. I'm sure you made that baby rattler happy by making it feel like a hero. ;-)

    I like your post. Too often I would sit just inches away frm my computer screen or with my nose burried deeply in my papers, concentrating for hours without looking up. I then would always feel sorry at night that I didn't just take a longer break during the day, going out into nature, soaking up the fresh strength and power the forest, the sun and the singing birds would give to me.

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  29. Great advice! I can't wait til it warms up a bit and I can get out and enjoy the view...I've been cooped up with my eyes glued on this screen for too long!

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  30. Wait, you live where? Group hike at your house please! We can all stretch our legs and admire the scenery and fill ourselves with inspiration!

    Good advice, though--recently, what with work, renovations and seven kinds of drama, I need reminders to look up and enjoy what's beautiful around me.

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  31. Hey Julie...I started reading this and cracked up and then as I kept reading it hit home..not just about writing but my life...how so much of the time I was on guard for danger I forgot to look at the beauty. Thanks for this and for being you....dramatic...maybe...funny..yep and an awesome writer. ☺

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  32. What a wonderful metaphor/analogy for writing ... and for life. I walk with my head down a lot too - looking for rocks and other interesting things and sometimes forget to look up and around - I think for my first draft I keep my head down, then in re-writing I look all around!

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  33. Great analogy. To say the same thing in different words, I think as writers we are very internally focused. In our minds, hearts, heads. We need to shake that up by looking externally to the world more often. The external feeds the internal.

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  34. Oh, that's a great comparison. Yes, I hope I am enjoying the thrill of writing along with the hard work. I will have to contemplate that...thanks for the food for thought!

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  35. Lovely story. I say wear boots and look where you like!

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  36. Lovely story and a perfect analogy!

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  37. This is a great analogy--I love to hike and trail run, and I know just what you're talking about. Sometimes I'm so concerned about tripping over a random root that I forget to look up and remember why I chose to run outside in the first place :) Thanks for the reminder!

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  38. Julie, I think the snake was following you. I'm just sayin'.

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  39. Your wonderful metaphor aside, baby rattlers are dangerous and I'm glad you got away! My sister-in-law nearly picked one up in her yard last summer (thinking it was dog poop). They're so much worse than big rattlers because they can't control how much venom they pump into your body. But being from rattlesnake country, you probably already knew that. :)

    Stay safe. Maybe look at the ground AND the beauty. In other words, buy another pair of eyes that you can wear on the top of your head. :)

    Amy

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  40. It's so easy to get caught up in the details of what you are doing and forget to take a breather and look around.

    Thanks for the reminder!

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  41. Great analogy!! And great photo. I used to live in CA and love the poppy-covered hills.

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  42. And me? I'm looking around at the glory, tripping over roots, getting tangled in the wild grass, getting thorns in my leg and just LUCKY that darned rattler was scared off by my off tune singing... teehee--Love the analogy!

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  43. I am definitely bad for this. I find as a writer, writing is always on my mind, and i'm not as present in my own life as I should be. Thanks for the reminder--well timed. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  44. Beautifully said. Unfortunately, I am guilty of doing that on occasion. Thanks for the reminder to look up and enjoy the view. :)

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  45. YES! It is a constant balancing act, isn't it?

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  46. Really scary about the snake, Julie! I don't blame you for looking down and being careful. Nice comparison with the writing. We do need to look up and find the beauty in life as well.

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  47. This is such a great reminder, Julie. Maybe it's a good idea to be both receptive and perceptive.

    BTW, coincidentally, just the other day I was hiking with a friend and she spotted a baby rattler too. If she hadn't pointed it out to me, I would never have noticed it -- I was looking off in the distance.

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  48. Ugh. Yeah. I tend to miss the view. I'm kind of obsessive, you know. But your post was JUST what I needed to hear today. SO THANK you! :D
    And btw, I once almost stepped on a snake in my parking lot, and I thought it was a rubber toy, until it slithered away and I SCREAMED! LOL.

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  49. I'm trying to enjoy the scenery more. I can be a worrywart.

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  50. Hi Julie..I too would have raced down the hill at the sight of the snake. No, you are not dramatic at all. :)

    Many times I am so busy, I feel I am missing the view and a lot else. Good reminder to enjoy the small things.

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  51. Oh yes....been doing that awhile and forgetting to look up and love what's there:)

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  52. argh! I go through periods of this, but you're right. Especially when it comes to time with our family or loved ones. Don't miss this. (That's me talking to myself... ;o) <3

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  53. #1. I am ABSOLUTELY looking down too much!!!

    #2. Thanks for visiting my blog today! Loved your comment there.

    #3. Also love the tagline for your blog, which could be mine, too!

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  54. Excellent post and great reminder. It's so easy to ignore (and take for granted) all the beauty around us.

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  55. It's funny. I was just thinking about this an hour ago when I picked my kids up at my parents. I drive down their street daily, but I'm usually so focused on the music playing on the radio or absorbed in my own thoughts that today when i actually looked at the view of the street and area around their house it was like I was seeing it for the first time. I thought how sad that was! Hopefully I can train myself to look around more and become more observant. I'll get a lot more out of life and become a better writer! Thanks for the post! christy

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  56. Lovely post--thanks for the inspiration and smile. And the amusing image of that baby rattler chasing you down the mountain.... :)

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  57. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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