Look after your mind
Just a story
I have in front of me two of my most treasured possessions, both books. One is the very first ‘Doctor Who Annual (1965) and the other is a novel by the science fiction writer and visionary, Arthur C Clarke. The story is called ‘The City and the Stars’. I bought it in 1970 and still have that original copy.
Inside your own head
The author and philosopher Colin Wilson once said that most people live 90% of the time inside their own heads. Perhaps take a minute to reflect on that to see if or how true it is for you. As a writer I certainly know I do, much to the frustration of my wife sometimes when she’s trying to tell me something and I’ve got that distracted look on my face! Even when I’m watching a programme I like on TV, my mind might wander off to my latest writing project, or the one after that, or the one after that.
Relaxed alertness or daydreaming.
That particular state of mind has been called ‘relaxed alertness’ when I’m simply and peacefully noticing the drift of my thoughts. I also call it ‘systematic daydreaming’ because I’m daydreaming for a purpose and as a matter of choice. It’s easy to get lost in daydreams which, if they’re pleasant memories and reminiscences, or enjoyable plans for the future, are fine. It’s when the mind throws up negative memories – unpleasant encounters, regrets etc. – or possible future scenarios which cause anxiety that direct positive action needs to be taken.
This brings me back to my treasured books. Reading a short story or a novel is another kind of systematic daydreaming, where the author takes us by the hand, as it were, and leads us through an exciting, dramatic and uplifting adventure. At least that’s what the writers of the Doctor Who stories and Arthur C. Clarke did for me. The first Doctor was filled with insatiable curiosity, a sense of wonder at the incredible universe he was exploring, and an overarching respect for the varied and marvellous life forms he encountered. The hero of Clarke’s story, the young boy Alvin, dares to strike out beyond the confines of the city where he lives and ‘steps over the line’ into the great unknown.
Both books had a powerful positive influence on my life and continue to do so; I will never think of them as ‘just’ stories. If you already have a favourite book then I’m preaching to the converted. If you haven’t yet found one, then I hope I’ve at least touched on some of the benefits of keeping a cherished story close to your heart.