Like many others, the horrific massacre in Paris got me to thinking about how I would have reacted to a terror attack. A number of articles have popped up on the Internet stressing how situational awareness improves your odds of surviving acts of terrorism and similar emergencies. I couldn’t help but notice the ties between situational awareness and writing.
I’ve previously made the case that intense physical activity sharpens the mind and senses. Famed Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi argued the same in his classic The Book of Five Rings. And now we have science that bolsters Musashi’s insights. From Psychology Today:
Musashi referred extensively to training vision and perception through martial arts, but now there is modern evidence in experimental psychology to support his assertions and show that visual abilities can be enhanced with such training. …
Writing in the journal “Attention and Perceptual Psychophysics,” Monica Muinos and Soledad Ballesteros from the Department of Basic Psychology in Madrid, Spain wanted to know if sports training that relied heavily on dynamic visual acuity could interfere with the normal decline in this ability. Using a tracking task where the participants had to rapidly determine the direction and characteristics of object motion, they studied young (less than 30 years) and older (more than 60 years) adults who either had no sporting background or who had training in judo or karate. Not surprisingly, martial arts athletes—both judo and karate—had better dynamic visual acuity scores than non-athletes. This result supports the idea that martial arts training may enhance dynamic visual acuity.
In the following clip, Matt Damon (as Jason Bourne) explains how attention to seemingly trivial details is essential to survival:
Awareness of the fine details others overlook is something every writer must develop. As Stephen King wrote in On Writing, “Skills in description, dialogue, and character development all boil down to seeing or hearing clearly and then transcribing what you see or hear with equal clarity.”
As I’ve said before, the act of reading and writing stories isn’t just a diversion from life, it is life itself.