Writing

Are you being guided by something?

Cave painting photograph © Maxime Aubert

An interesting thing happened this morning:

I got up at 6am and went downstairs to make a cup of tea. As I waited for the kettle to boil, I checked the weather (to see if a walk was on today) and the BBC News (to see whether Trump had been impeached).

One news article caught my eye, and it wasn’t about Trump – “Archaeologists find world’s oldest animal cave painting”. Amazingly, archaeologists in Indonesia have discovered a painting of a wild pig, which is believed to have been drawn 45,500 years ago! I love things like this, so I left the article up on my screen to read later.

Back upstairs, with my cup of tea, I opened the book I’m reading (The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, in case you’re interested). Nothing unusual about this. Except that half an hour later, I realised I felt a bit strange. Restless. Fidgety. As if something wanted to happen, but I had absolutely no idea what.

So I did something unusual – I put the book down and just sat there.

I waited. With nothing particularly on my mind.

I remember thinking, “Well, this is boring,” and then, suddenly, I was transported to a scene in my novel in which the main character enters a mysterious cave. (I had been grappling with this scene a few months ago and it was round about this time that I decided – yet again – that I was obviously not cut out to be a novelist and I should take a break and do something else.)  

Somehow, the cave painting and the scene in my novel merged together and a new scene appeared in which the main character discovers some marks on the wall of the cave they’ve just entered, and this gives them a clue as to who is lurking inside!

I grabbed a pen and hastily scribbled all this down on a scrap of paper, which I keep by my bedside for precisely these sorts of magical moments.

And then I thought…if I hadn’t stopped, and put my book down, would this have just happened?

It seems to me that when I saw the cave painting article this morning, my subconscious started simmering beneath the surface as I sipped my tea and read my book…. And after a while, when the ideas had simmered enough, some bubbles connected and sparked and wanted to rise to the surface… And that ‘internal bubbling’ made me feel weird and restless and fidgety.

I could have ignored the feeling and carried on reading (I have definitely done this in the past). But this time, for whatever reason, I decided to pay attention to what my body was trying to tell me and I paused for a moment. And this space enabled a new idea to swim to the surface.

Except it didn’t exactly swim. Swimming requires effort. It bobbed to the surface in exactly the same way a cork, when held under water, will shoot to the surface when it’s released.

It was effortless and entirely natural.

Which made me think:

How often does our body whisper to us like this? How often does it give us subtle (or not so subtle) signals? And how often do we ignore these signals, or resist them and push them away?

What would happen if, instead, we welcomed this guidance… PAUSED… and let whatever wants to come through, come through?

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