Henry James advised his readers to “Be one of those people on whom nothing is lost” and in her great, great book, Becoming A Writer, editor and early self-help guru Dorothea Brande, laid out the following method “of getting to that desirable state”.
“Set yourself a short period each day when you will, by taking thought, recapture a childlike ‘innocence of eye’. Transport yourself back to the state of wide-eyed interest that was yours at the age of five… turn yourself into a stranger in your own streets.
“As you get into your streetcar, or walk along a street, for 15 minutes notice and tell yourself about every single thing that your eyes rest on. The streetcar: what color is it outside? (Not just green or red but sage or olive green, scarlet or maroon).
“Where is the entrance? Has it a conductor and motorman? What colors inside, the walls, the floor, the seats, the advertising posters? How do the seats face? Who is sitting opposite you? How are your neighbors dressed, how do they stand or sit, what are they reading, or are they sound asleep? What sounds are you hearing, what smells are reaching you, how does the strap feel under your hand, or the stuff of the coat that brushes past?
“…Any moment of your life can be used and the room that you spend most of your waking hours in is as good, or better, to practice responsiveness on as a new street. Try to see your home, your family, your friends, your school or office, with the same eyes you use away from your daily route… Put what you notice into definite words before you abandon it.
“A mind is so easily freshened.”
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