Thursday 1 November 2018

Stand and Stare

the-blue-bench, paul-marriner, book

I am happy to be welcoming author Paul Marriner to The Writing Greyhound today, especially since he has put together such a thoughtful, insightful post to share with you all. Read on to hear more from Paul!

When Lorna suggested I write a piece for her site my first thought was a happy one. I like preparing articles for blogs as they invariably encourage me to think about something I probably pay less attention to than I should – they are an inducement to take a little ‘time out’ for some quality thinking before committing finger to keyboard – and that’s always a good thing. My second thought was a less happy one – did I have time to take a ‘time out’? Often I find interesting ideas pop into my head when I’m not searching for them, when my mind is simply wandering or I’m day-dreaming, when I’m taking a ‘time-out’. But this is a less frequent occurrence in these busy days of 24/7 connectivity with expectations of instant responses to emails, texts, WhatsApp, facebook, twitter and phone calls. Unsurprisingly, the opening lines of the poem Leisure by William Henry Davies came to mind.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
And I spent a little time thinking about those lines. If you read the poem in full it seems clear that Davies felt very strongly the lives of his fellow countrymen and women were diminished by not allowing themselves time to ‘stop and stare’, and this is back in 1911. It is also a poem in praise of nature itself and considering that we now live not only in a 24/7 full-on, constantly connected world that allows for very little ‘time out’ but also live in societies which are actively destroying nature it seems to me the poem is more relevant than ever.

But back to Davies. When he wrote those words he had no idea that a little over 100 years later someone like me would still be taking an interest. I doubt he would have guessed how often his words are quoted and that the poem would turn up in many a ‘favourite rhyme’ list. But he wrote it anyway. Why?

Partly I think it was because he felt so strongly about the message but mainly because he was, at heart, a poet. What does that mean? Why do poets and writers write? Why do musicians write songs? Why do artists draw and paint? Photographers take pictures? Producers and Directors make films? I thought back to an article I’d written a few months ago about why I write which concluded that I was inspired by the books I’d read when young to entertain, educate and challenge and, perhaps, learn a little more about myself in the process. And these are all valid reasons, but, thinking about Davies, I wondered if there is something more primaeval; something ingrained in us that is moved to create and then to share that creation. I find it exciting that when presented with a blank page (screen) and a pen (keyboard) so many are compelled to put something on it – be it words or pictures. Or put musicians and singers in a silent room and they are driven to fill it with music.

the-blue-bench, paul-marriner, author

I wondered what the psychologists had to say about this. As you can probably imagine there were a number of theories and I (with limited formal knowledge of this stuff) could not say which were more likely to be true. But I did come across the thoughts of Anthony Robbins which struck a chord with me. So the first thing I did was check to see if he had any qualifications or special background that meant his thoughts would carry weight. It turns out he’s a hugely successful (& immensely rich) US entrepreneur, philanthropist and life coach – which I suppose means I should have heard of him, but I hadn’t. But it did mean I suddenly felt his thoughts on the matter were less important or valid. Was that fair? Perhaps not, so I went back to them. Robbins’ view is that there are six core human needs. Four of them are needs of the personality: Certainty; Uncertainty; Significance; Love and Connection. And two of them are needs of the spirit: Growth; Contribution.

Now some of this stuff seems a bit ‘twee’ to me, but I didn’t want my cynicism to dismiss them out of hand so I read a bit further. In particular, the following two ‘needs’ caught my eye:

Significance: the need to feel important, special, unique or needed

Contribution: the need to give beyond ourselves, share experiences, care, protect and serve others

Now, as I say, I have no idea as to the academic validity of the theory but it seems to me there is some truth there, especially the first which is not altruistic. So perhaps, working together, they would drive the ‘need’ felt by writers and artists to create. Writers like William Henry Davies.

I wondered what William Henry Davies would make of it and whether he’d approve of me letting my thoughts ramble. I’m not sure. I hadn’t quite heeded his advice to take time to stop and stare, though I had allowed myself time to let my mind wander pretty much unencumbered and look into something I would not normally have allowed myself time to do. That felt a good thing but still, there was an end product as a result of my mind rambling (this article) and I don’t think it’s the kind of day-dreaming ‘stare’ that Mr Davies meant. So, next time, to be true to Mr Davies, it needs to be simply ‘for the sake of it’ and perhaps with an eye on the squirrel in our garden.

Postscript: ….which may be difficult to believe but which is true. As is my custom, I came back to this article a couple of days after writing it - to tidy it and get rid of typos etc. But before doing so I put on the kettle. From the kitchen where I could see the garden. There is a particularly bold squirrel and I watched as he foraged close to the house and didn’t rush to make coffee when I heard the kettle boil – the squirrel really was entertainment enough.

So, what’s the moral? Yep, we absolutely need to ‘stop and stare’, but when the urge to create comes on you, just go with it. You never know where it will lead.

About Paul Marriner

Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one!

The Blue Bench is available to buy now.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Many thanks to Lorna for the opportunity to ramble - it's much appreciated.

    Oh, and just to be absolutely clear - in the penultimate paragraph it was me that didn't rush to the kettle, not the squirrel. Now that would definitely make me stop and stare.

    Hope there's something of interest here and look forward to seeing others' thoughts and comments.

    Paul Marriner

    1. The squirrel rushing to the kettle certainly would have been something! Thanks for stopping by the blog, Paul x