Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Killing Time Productively

"Killing time" is an awful waste, especially for those of us who are passionate about our art, in my case, writing. The last thing I want to do is waste time. Time is a precious commodity (Is it a commodity? It certainly can't be bought and sold. It can't be saved up or stored for the future; oh, my, if we could do that.... I suppose Einstein might have something to say about that, but he's not here. At least, I can't stretch or contract time. It is a constant; it's always in the background, and sometimes in the foreground, of my life).

How to best use time? Yet, I can't work every second of every day. I must give myself to other activities at least some of the time--actually, most of the time. Overall, I give very little time to actually writing. And the past couple of years, it's been a struggle to get any writing done. Sometimes, it's a battle within myself as well as a battle with the "elements of life."

Yesterday I was at my opthamologist's office and had to kill some time. I didn't know how long I'd be waiting for my appointment, but it seemed to be taking awhile. I wished I had brought my notebook, or a novel, or some of my manuscript with me to work on while I waited, but I hadn't. I did have a pen with me, but no paper. I wanted to do something. Then I saw a painting on the wall, one of a European town I think. I got the bright idea of describing the picture I saw in words. I picked up a medical leaflet like you find in doctors' offices and wrote on it.

So here is what I came up with:

I walked down the brown cobbled street that glistened after the 3 p.m. rain shower. The awnings along the storefronts cast downward shadows that cut the glare. The tall narrow buildings overlooked the river with shining windows decorated with brown and yellow curtains. The alleyways between the buildings were blocked by whitewashed brick walls with locked wooden doors. I wondered what kinds of people lived behind those closed doors, occupied the narrow buildings. What did they see when they looked out the windows at the street and river below? Did they see what I saw? Did they see the crisp quaintness of their little town, or had that faded from view and now all they saw was a familiar sameness that didn't register--that passed through their minds like wind through a window?

The one thing I learned from this excercise was that I couldn't just describe what I saw. I had to interpret it. I had to give it meaning, or see the meaning within it, but the meaning I saw was what it meant to me.

Was this a useful way to kill time? I think so. I surprised myself by seeing the beauty right before my eyes.


Paula R C Readman said...

Brilliant Richard and a great way of using your time too. Good luck with your book too

Anonymous said...

Definitely WAS a useful way! I'm very impressed. Of course, this kind of description goes all through your novel. And yes, even though there are more important things to do than blog and/or write reviews -- family does come first -- it IS important to me to praise my fellow writers. To get a review of Only the Lonely posted is first on my list before I read anything else! You really are an amazing writer. Wish I could do description as beautifully as you do. I mean this sincerely!

Ann Best, Memoir Author

R. Mac Wheeler said...

Hi Richard

You have been a visitor of my Sunday Safaris in the thought of you...

I put a guest post together for a friend today…liked it so much I want to take it on a tour…meaning I’m fishing for invites.

Would you be willing to host me on your blog?

I put a galley of twenty favorite pictures together [from my famous Sunday Safaris] for my friend’s post…If you are up to me taking several meg of your free Google disk space.

No pressure. If you’d like to wait for JC’s post on the 28th…I’ll send you a link so you can look over the content first.


Regards, Mac

Elise Fallson said...

I enjoyed your description and thought your short impromptu writing exercise was certainly not a waste of time. Certainly better than thumbing through superficial fashion magazines that usually pollute waiting rooms.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

This definitely was a great exercise. Usually I take a book to read anywhere I may have to wait. But I like this idea so much. Meanwhile, I agree with Ann. You describe things so well. Describing (and interpreting through your description) is definitely one of your many writing strengths.

Julia Hones said...

Nice job, Richard! I'm sure it fueled your imagination and now you are compelled to continue. Excellent idea.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Richard .. sounds like you've found a way forward for future 'time wasting' times .. standing in a queue etc ..

Love the description you give of the cobbled streets ... and who would or might have lived behind those doors - what their life was like in days gone by .. how much has changed ..

I have to say if I get a few minutes to myself .. it's my space when I don't want to read, or jot down things - the brain can rest - til the cacophony of life springs back a short while later.

My latest post on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe show came from scanning The Telegraph's article of how it came to fruition .. while I was on a train. Even on a train - I let my wander .. if it can get past all the other banality going on!!

Cheers and have a good week - you have loads on your plate .. perhaps a little mini recorder ... as well as a notebook. Hilary

Clarissa Draper said...

What a beautiful time killer! I love it. You're right, we need not just to describe but interpret. Nice. I try to always have a small notebook handy or write with my phone.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Not just enjoyed, but loved your descriptions. I always carry a small notepad with me or I write with my phone.

Tanya Reimer said...

Yup, interesting to see what happens when us writers get bored eh? Magic.

Lynda R Young said...

That's a great way of killing time. Reading is another good way of killing time because we should read as much as we write.