I heard a story recently that I’d share here. It seems a very famous Buddhist monk was going to visit New York City for the first time. His guide was very excited, and drew up and intensive itinerary that included all of the famous landmarks. When the monk arrived, he followed the guide quietly taking in the sights. Running a little behind, the guide told the monk, “I think if we take the subway we can save ten minutes, and see more.” The monk nodded and followed along. Later that day, The monk and the guide were crossing through one of the city’s many parks and the monk sat down on the bench. The guide was perplexed, and asked the monk, “What are you doing?” The monk replied, “Enjoying my ten minutes.”
Writers talk about managing time a lot. How busy we are. How difficult it is to find writing time. Which is fine as long as we’re not whining about it. But how often do we talk about the value of resting, of taking a minute to breathe the air, listen to the robins sing the last chorus of the evening, stare out the window and daydream? As writers we create a story moment by moment, so isn’t it vital we live that way too?
It’s probably obvious to you by now that I am in a rest mode. No, that doesn’t mean I have forsaken my writing schedule or that I am on vacation. I just got back from vacation. I am still putting in my hours of work. But this story reminded me that we all bounce from one thing to the next, our eyes focused on the “next thing” while our feet are still in the present. And I wondered, if we live that way, do we write that way too? Do I write that way?
My answer. No. I don’t write that way—at least I don’t think I do—I don’t want to—I hope I don’t write that way.
When I’m writing the world around me melts away. I don’t have “summit fever”, a term mountain climbers use to describe the most dangerous time in the climb, when all a climber can think about is reaching the top of the mountain, attaining their goal.
I never write to finish fast. I write until the story is complete and is ready to send out. I write moment by moment—but trust me, that has not always been the case. In the past, I have sent stories out before they were ready to go. I learned, hopefully, I matured with a greater sense of duty to my work. I have learned to let my writing sit and cool after it is finished.
But things change when I step outside away from my desk. I get swept up in the demands of everyday life. I am not a monk—I rarely know when it is time sit on the park bench and enjoy the ten minutes that I have saved doing something else.
My goal for the summer is do just that. Stop. Listen. Breathe. Even if it is just for ten minutes before I move on to the next thing. I figure if I can let my work rest, then I should allow my body and mind rest, too.
Consider doing nothing for ten minutes as a writing exercise—it may turn out to be the best part of the story.