Every day we’re faced with the decision of how and where to focus our attention. Sustained attention may be the most endangered resource in our modern age. We often forget that we have a choice about how we spend our time, as well as how we use technology. No one is requiring us to live harried lives in a reactive state, constantly struggling to stay on top of emails, texts, deadlines, and our overfilled schedules.

Writer and poet Christian McEwen understands the relationship between time and imagination better than anyone. Her new book World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down makes a potent plea for us to live deeper, more deliberate  lives. McEwen shows us that making art isn’t about squeezing yet another activity into an already overflowing schedule. It’s about making time for play and scheduling fewer activities and slowing down—creating what McEwen so eloquently describes as “a rich sufficiency of time.”

Christian McEwen (Photo by Jo Eldredge Morrissey)

Though McEwen currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, she grew up in the Borders of Scotland “in a big old-fashioned house” with “beautiful shabby rooms and scented gardens” and “a perpetual drone of adult anxiety about school fees and taxes and the latest heating bill.” “Marchmont was a kind of paradise,” McEwen writes in her book:

“We climbed to the top of the huge Victorian wardrobe, and leapt down, squealing, on the squashy beds. We seized the cushions from the sofa in the music room, and ran and skidded on the polished floor. We threw ourselves at the house with everything we had, meeting it, head-on, with our entire bodies…

There was breakfast and lunch and tea and supper, all at regular intervals. There was church and tidy clothes and remembering to do your homework. But there was silence too, and solitude, and calm, where clocks and watches mattered not at all: lying in the long grass behind the raspberry canes, listening to the roo-coo of the pigeons, self dissolved in wonder, lost in light.”

McEwen is a reader’s reader and is skilled at weaving in the work of other writers like Virginia Woolf, William Stafford, Adrienne Rich, John Berger, Walter Benjamin, and Adam Gopnik. Her bibliography alone is worth the price of t