Saturday 3 August 2013

Quiet Imaginings - letting your mind roam free

I bought a picture this week - one of those vintage railway posters, all watercolours and beautiful scenery.  This one advertises The Lake District, I bought it because I fell in love with the area after visits up there with our tent but mainly because of the advertising slogan used by London Midland Scottish railway. 

“The Lake District – for rest and quiet imaginings.”
The phrase ‘quiet imaginings’ really appealed my inner writer and especially my unquashable romantic.  It evokes images of dreaming, wanderings in the countryside, forming life-changing plans and that freedom of mind you only have as a child where your imagination knows no bounds.
I have been mulling over our attachment to computers and social media for a while now, making notes for a blog, but seeing this poster was my ‘eureka’ moment. 

Our lifestyle today is not conducive to quiet imaginings and that makes me sad.
To be an artist, whether you act, write or paint, your imagination is your best friend.  How else can you express yourself?  How can you be creative if you're mind is filled with the beeps of your inbox.  Comedian and generally all-round brilliant human being, Miranda Hart has said that she “genuinely worries about what is happening to people’s imaginations” and “where the next generation of artists, screen writers and authors are going to come from,” because people are locked in a bubble with their screens.
Are we able to turn our brains off?  To turn down the volume to quiet?  I, like many  people, really struggle against this chatter.  Ideas, to-do lists and information constantly circle my mind like a plane waiting to descend into Heathrow.  I lie in bed choreographing dances, luckily for my other half they are all done in my head without an offending high kick or jazz hand stuffed up his nose. 
Who else reaches for their smart phone during an ad break on the TV?  Or whilst on a train journey or even on the loo?  It’s the train journey one that really irks me.  What’s wrong with staring out of the window and letting your mind wander?  Or people spotting?  Do you think the Before Sunrise film would have happened if Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were playing Candy Crush on the journey to Vienna, NO! 

Avenue Q warm up - shameful!
We can’t let our minds be still for a moment.  It’s like a technology-induced ADHD.  Do we think our brains will power- down the second they are left to their own devices?  Ah, excuse the unintended pun!  I have started to give myself a smart phone curfew and try not to stare at that little screen past 9pm.  Work emails fly in and kick my brain into action or that momentary Twitter check, to ensure the world hasn’t stopped turning without my 140 characters of wisdom – all these stop me from winding down in the evening.

Even on holiday people cannot resist the allure of technology; do I need to see a picture of the view from your hotel?  Do I want to see your bikini-clad girlfriend squinting through my computer.  Not really, no.  There may be a part of me that’s just downright jealous of your lovely time but really I just want you, my cyber friend who I probably haven’t actually spoken to in 8 years, to relax and enjoy your holiday.  Post the pictures when you get back if necessary but please switch off and enjoy the view for yourself.

Psychologies magazine had an interesting article in the April 2013 issue exploring why we have this attachment to social media.  It discusses the loss of private moments, engagements, childbirth etc and the attention we get for sharing them online.  Author, Lucy Beresford says “there is a danger that we end up relying too much on other people and their comments to soothe us and make us feel better.”  Does someone writing “OMG jealous!” really make you feel vindicated in your holiday destination choice?  And don’t get me started on those folk who put “Some people are scum – you know who you are” or “Amazing news, can’t tell you what though.”

Ooo I had a right rant there, didn’t I?  Sorry!  I know we can’t go back to writing with quills and need to keep up with our fast paced world.  As a self-employed creative, I do need a smart phone, of course I do.  We are expected to answer work emails immediately and be contactable or able to give social comment at all times.  I am also not judging those of you need to use their journey time to catch up on work, life is busy and we all have to juggle our time.  But I do urge you to look out of your train window (after you’ve finished reading this, of course!) and take time to enjoy your surroundings, rather than taking “selfies” to post online because we are missing the important moments around us. 
I think the London, Midland, Scottish Railway Company got their slogan spot-on.  After years of traipsing to un-identifiable white hotels to lie on a sun-lounger all in the name of ‘chilling out’ I actually found more relaxation and battery-charging time sitting outside a blue tent staring at the fells  of The Lakes.  We, sometimes, have to let our brains be quiet amid that hubbub called ‘life.’
And actors, I’ll finish with a quote from Michael Simkins’ new book “The Rules of Acting” (buy it, read it, now. )  Ralph Richardson explained to a young Michael, “all they (actors) need to do is to be able to dream.  If you can dream, you can act.” 

Please don’t lose the ability to dream.

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