“The essential thing to write is time and solitude,” she said. “You have to be willing to waste time.”
The she is Kay Ryan, our sixteenth poet laureate. Her quote was in my morning paper. I was already feeling a little antsy when I came upon it.
I had finished my cursory reading of the national/local news. I read a few things in op-ed. I never feel guilty about spending time with the op-ed pages. In fact, I feel almost smug. But it never fails, when I pick up the entertainment/living section, I get anxious. That nagging times a-wastin’ feeling starts creeping in. Do I really need to know another thing about Prince William and Kate? Must I see how many stars my horoscope is offering today? Don’t I know I will never make a January centerpiece with winter root vegetables? I should be heading to the gym, unloading the dishwasher, writing. I should be writing.
And then, there she was. A national writing treasure telling me that in order to write, I must be willing to waste time. That gave me pause. And pause … happens to be something I greatly need.
My therapist, Ginny, said it. “You don’t have pause.” I think that’s how she said it. What she meant, I think, was that I have a tendency to jump right in. Walk into a room, a situation, a relationship, and look around for what needs to be accomplished and how I can be of assistance. I like to tidy things up. Set things straight. Make everyone more comfortable.
I get up in the morning with my list of to-dos and I set about doing them. Crossing things off the top, adding more to the bottom, intent on getting things done. I had a friend once who told me that she didn’t know if I saw the glass half full or half empty, but she was certain I thought it was my job to fill it up.
The rest of the story basically said that Ryan understood that her writing process was a way of life, not just something she did for a few hours every day. That time spent doing other things—biking, reading, sipping coffee—were vital to the creation of her work.
That’s when I knew. She gets it. She has pause. That’s why she’s a poet laureate, and I keep having to spell-check laureate. So, I finished the story, unloaded the dishwasher, and went to the gym. Alone, in solitude. Feeling like maybe, I’m starting to get it. I’m starting to see that it’s not so much about what I’m doing. It’s more about where my focus is while I’m doing it. And that gave me pause again.
The other night, during my bath, I kept thinking about how nice it’s been to have time to consider. Even time to consider myself.
Time and solitude. A pause. A waste of time? I think not.