Recently on Facebook I was “tagged” by a friend for the little game of “Random Facts”. I was asked to share fourteen things about myself.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to share them here…except for one item on the list.
9. I’m weird — I love to iron.
Yep. Many years ago, ironing was a necessity. You did it whether you liked it or not. Not so, today, of course. With all the fancy wrinkle-free fabrics and permanent press washer/dryer cycles, who needs to iron? Not too many people, to tell the truth.
If you’re the observant type — more on that later — you’ll notice that this illustration shows a very old-fashioned flat iron.
Growing up, I used an iron like this. By choice. Being left-handed, and this being back in the day when irons had cords that were rigidly attached to one side, I was always getting tangled up in the cord and burning myself. It was painful.
But still, I ironed. Then, however, I discovered the old flat-iron tucked away in my grandfather’s cabinet. I’d heat it up on the stove, iron, and smile.
So what it is about ironing that has such appeal for me? Is it the warmth? The smooth, finished, wrinkle-free results of my work? The tickling sensation that comes from spray starch?
None of the above. Oh, all right, maybe all of the above have some appeal, but mostly what I love about ironing is that it takes me off into a creative space. My mind is free to wander while I stand ironing. Even as my hands perform a mundane task, my imagination is off pursuing glorious adventures. It’s a time of mind-less-ness. Conscious thought doesn’t stop altogether, but the rational takes a backseat to the fantastical. To put it simply: ironing is creative.
So, too, is dishwashing and floor scrubbing. Any routine, repetitive, mundane chore that allows me to remain relatively still as I work gives me the opportunity to retreat inward, to climb inside my head and visit with all the characters who reside there. It’s a quiet time when I can listen to their stories, hear their voices, and return to my world refreshed, energized, and filled with ideas.
I think these times of mind-less-ness are important to writers, to artists, to musicians.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, of course, is mind-ful-ness, a state of hyper-awareness and sensitivity to our surroundings. A Zen master might describe it as attaining oneness or being in the moment.
Part of developing creativity does involve mind-ful-ness. It is important for us to use our senses fully as writers. To do so requires first that we use our senses fully in our own lives. How can we accurately describe the texture of a thick, woolen sweater if we’ve never taken time to notice it? How can we share with readers the subtle changes in light and color as the sun rises each day unless we’ve experienced it ourselves?
Stop right where you are now.
Can you feel the back of your chair? Is it hot or cold in the room? Are you aware of your own breathing? Is there a taste in your mouth? What sounds do you hear?
Mindfulness means paying attention. It means being observant. It means taking notes — mental or otherwise — about our experiences. Creativity requires mindfulness as much as it thrives on mind-less-ness. Both are important.
I know I too often lean toward the mind-less end of the spectrum. My task is to remind myself to pay attention, to become more aware of my surroundings, to sometimes get out of my head and back into the real world.
How about you?