Do you like waiting?
I was at the opticians the other day and early for my appointment. The only other people waiting were elderly and, I assumed, retired. We were all sat there, patiently, not one person checked their phone. Did they have one?
I had deleted my facebook and twitter apps from my own phone and once I had checked my email, put it away. So, whereas I would have once sat endlessly checking updates, checking on what everyone else was or was not doing, I sat and waited like everyone else. No one was reading a magazine, no one talking or grumbling – we just sat in silence. Waiting.
And I began to wonder what they were all thinking. Were they planning the rest of the day, the week, the month – the rest of their lives? Were they going over an argument they had had? Something they wished they had done or hadn’t done?
Idle thoughts for idle minds
My thoughts then jumped to waiting, then idling, as a car engine idles – as if idle was a bad word. But it’s not is it? It’s actually quite creative to sit without an end in mind and think, dream, create. My imagination began to crank into action. I imagined who the people sitting there were, what their lives were like. One man had an awkward lump in his sock (don’t laugh). I wondered whether it was a tag – was he being monitored and why? He must have been well into his 80s and an unlikely criminal – but then lots of criminals are. And if he was a criminal what crime had he committed? Why was he released?
The thing is, if we spend our time staring at our phones to fill the time instead of idling, observing, imagining, we will never build the muscle of dream time which is what we need to do if we are to create anything fresh and real. Idling helps me sort out plot threads and characters. I notice mannerisms, the way people pull at their ears, fidget with their buttons, pull at their ties. I notice lots of things. You need to if you are a writer. You need to pay attention to the small things in life that, when added to a story, make it come alive.
If you’re stuck for ideas, characters, settings, then the next time you’re waiting at a bus stop, in a surgery, a restaurant, don’t pull your phone from your pocket – put it away. Your stories are waiting there beside you if you will only look up, and look around.