How do you know if something is a waste of time?
A common definition of “waste” is “to use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose. “ Synonyms for waste include squander, misspend, misuse, fritter away, or throw away. No one wants to squander or fritter away time.
But, ask a creative person how she spends her time, and if she’s being honest, she’ll describe work sessions punctuated by time spent in activities which are more difficult to define. Oddly, this time outside work sessions often creates a leap-frogging effect, vaulting work forward in a way that doesn’t happen when one is sitting down at a computer or with pencil and paper.
Unfortunately, the effect doesn’t work if you cut out the work sessions altogether. I’m not arguing that one should wander rather than work. But, there is something to the art of letting go and wandering.
For me, the wandering is literal.
I need to walk around in interesting environments. I need to touch contrasting textures of fabric and smell a variety of loose leaf teas. I need to see interesting patterns and shapes, and listen for contrasting tones of laughter. From the outside, I’m sure this wandering looks like a supreme waste of time. Why am I walking aimlessly, poking into stores, looking through baskets of random antiques, and heading home without buying anything?
I’m collecting. I’m filling up my sensory toolkit so that when I sit down to write, I have words and images and access to the feel of things. Too much time spent at my desk, and my senses dull. Fog settles over my brain and I might stare at my computer screen for ten minutes before coming up with a lackluster sentence. After puzzling over this fog, and how it showed up every now and then, I started to see the pattern.
And I started getting intentional about wandering.
What might speak to your senses?
Don’t be afraid to carve out time to wander. If you need more encouragement, you’ll definitely enjoy Keri Smith’s intriguing invitation to the art of wandering: The Wander Society.