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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.
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