How to Practice Paying Attention

5 ways to steer it in support of your values

Ximena Vengoechea
Forge

--

Photo: Chay Chay Sae Hêng / EyeEm/Getty Images

Like many writers, as a kid, I was a voracious reader. When you read a lot of books, you start to think differently. Not just about the world and what you’ve learned about it, or about people and what you now understand of them, but in how you compose your thoughts. Observations shift from matter-of-fact to exquisitely detailed. Metaphors crop up when you least expect them. Even passing thoughts suddenly have color and texture to them.

For years I had a habit of keeping notebooks filled with beautiful and intriguing lines I loved from books — the kind of sentence that stops you in your tracks for its vividness and emotion, where language is at once revered and made to work at its hardest. This practice of paying attention to language, and inscribing it to hold onto it, began to seep through my subconscious. Unprompted, my brain invented lines of dialogue, descriptions, and details for stories and characters and places that didn’t exist yet. By the time I was a teenager I kept two notebooks — one for inspiring lines from authors, and a second for my own occasional stroke of writing insight. At night they sat at my bedside, ready to catch an image or idea just as I fell asleep. It didn’t matter that these sentences didn’t add up to a clear plot or narrative arc, or that they never amounted…

--

--

Ximena Vengoechea
Forge

Writer, UX Researcher, Author of The Life Audit ('24), Rest Easy ('23), Listen Like You Mean It ('21). ximenavengoechea.com/books