When I listen to a story, I try to make a mental map of the threads at play. It is how the mind naturally tries to follow along.

When I am paying full attention, that is.

In our daily lives, however, our minds generally gravitate whatever it is that needs attention. For example, if you are a new driver, and you are not yet comfortable with the mechanics of operating a motor vehicle, your mind will actively be more focused on pushing the right pedals to the right depth, ensuring the shifter is in the right position, and your steering motions will be jerky and a little too deliberate.

This is all natural in the course of learning. As you become familiar, these activities become more fluid, more natural, and second nature, meaning that they do not require discrete, active attention.

The same is true of our daily lives.

We fall into routines, and the mind is simply conditioned to tune out certain things, many of which are important. But because our lives are hectic, our attention goes to where the fires are, without considering where they are not.

This led me to re-consider how I critically perceive stories. For everything that the narrator is telling me, I ask: What is being taken for granted? What is assumed? What are they not mentioning that allows this scene to take place?

Of course, as with life, a story cannot be encumbered by the backstory and backdrop. The brain has finite cognitive resources and must allocate attention sparingly. Similarly, overemphasis on “backdrop” details yields a narrative that feels unfocused, pointless, and ultimately unengaging.

Today’s writing prompt is about the backdrop details.

Pick some routine event or activity from today. Step back and try to take an objective look at this narrative. What are you taking for granted? What allows this routine to take place the way it does? BONUS: Tie-in what you take for granted with a perspective of gratitude.

This exercise is about examining seemingly common occurrences from a different perspective. 10 minutes.

As usual, I’ll post mine tomorrow! See you then.