Our Town and Realizing Life

9780060535254Last night, Walt and I saw the Huntington Theatre’s production of David Cromer’s Our Town by Thornton Wilder. This might be my favorite play ever and this production was stunning. In general, the show emphasizes the fleetingness of life and the importance and beauty of the everyday. Cromer’s production takes this to a new level and I’m still pretty much an emotional wreck about the whole thing. (But in a good way.)

But it also made me think about an article I read recently about the art of being still and how that can help you as an artist. It’s easy to rush through the day and never really notice or appreciate the things and people around you. In Our Town, Emily and the Stage Manager have an exchange:

EMILY: Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?
STAGE MANAGER: No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.

But even poets can get caught up in the rush of day jobs, laundry, making breakfast, paying electric bills, etc. In his article, Silas House suggests that we slow down and focus on the situation around us and ultimately utilize it in our writing:

“We must use every moment we can to think about the piece of writing at hand, to see the world through the point of view of our characters, to learn everything we can that serves the writing. We must notice details around us, while also blocking diversions and keeping our thought processes focused on our current poem, essay or book.”

I like the idea of a focused, hypersensitivity. Even if you don’t focus on a particular project, as a writer it really helps to live in the moment. You’re more likely to notice surprising details or odd characteristics when you’re not thinking about how you need milk or that you should email your friend about dinner. Not only is this important for general quality of life (it all goes so fast and is so beautiful), but it can bring a whole new depth to your writing life.

If you’re in the Boston area, you need to check out Our Town. And if you’re not, you still should check out a copy of the play. So good, guys.