Monday, 28 July 2014

The importance of reading, writing, and creativity

One reason I took a long hiatus in writing earlier in the year was because a colleague chastised me for wasting precious time on what that person considered a frivolous exercise (this blog). I was similarly chastised in my own brain, and out loud by others important to me for this same thing. These past months I have felt rather constantly frazzled, without enough minutes free in the day to accomplish even small tasks like emptying the dishwasher – let alone larger tasks like completing a grant application, or finishing a piece of work I had agreed to complete. So, to try to make peace between my complaints that I don’t have enough free time and the seeming way that I “waste” time writing blog posts, or responding with some alacrity to personal emails, or checking up on friends through Facebook, I mostly signed off of these things and devoted all spare minutes to keeping the house under control and higher-priority work-related-tasks.
Wasting time looking for birds hiding in the Australian bush

Why do I feel I don’t have enough time these days to put the laundry away? Because I am primarily a mom, and my child is wonderful and fun and very social, and not interested in playing quietly by himself while I organize my finances or do the dishes. And I find playing with him and going on outings together much more rewarding than keeping the house clean. And our finances have been such that hiring a person to take care of our child while I work essentially for free has not exactly been an option. But, at the same time, my brain begins to revolt a little after the hundreth time singing Five Little Monkeys, or the 16th minute pushing the swing, and I feel the need for some intellectual stimulation or adult interaction. So, though I have established I would not spend nap-times or those one or two hours I can eek in between waking up at 5 and when mothering begins for the day doing “superfluous” things, I find it almost impossible not to read the news or respond to emails on my phone while Ryder swings happily engrossed in watching other kids at the playground. And I found that while ostensibly I should have felt less frazzled because I was prioritizing better and I was getting real honest work done in those slivers of time, my life was starting to feel monotonous and devoid of the richness that makes it enjoyable (and that richness was only garnered in stolen moments here and there when I thought the kid wouldn’t notice).
Wasting time looking at rocks and nature and stuff

So I decided to forgo additional sleep and start reading again; a few minutes each evening before bed. I haven’t really read books for fun since the early days of nursing for hours in the middle of the night, when it was still awkward and I had to be upright and awake to properly feed my child. Then a friend gave me Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. At first I almost cried – when on earth will I read this book, I thought? But I made the time and it refreshed my soul. That book in particular was exactly what I needed to read at this time. It speaks exactly of what I was going through – while taking care of day-to-day needs of my family I had lost the ability to just sit and think. Perhaps this is not just why I feel drained sometimes as a mother of a small child, but why humans as a culture are sometimes drained of intelligence and we rush headlong into wars, or ravage a tract of wilderness to obtain a precious resource; we just don’t give ourselves the time to sit and think about it first.
Wasting time being silly

Since then I’ve dived into Mark Twain’s Roughing It, a hilarious and fascinating look into the world before cars during the Nevada silver rush. Now I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder, a book of essays of thoughts about the world inspired by the September 11 attacks, which is making me cry with every page and reminding me of this need to be still and alone sometimes, and just think.

And now that I am back to wasting time reading (what a frivolous thing it really is, producing nothing but new thoughts in my mind), I fear I must also begin wasting my time writing again. I have too many thoughts banging around in my brain to keep them in, and writing simply makes me incredibly happy. So this is a warning in advance that I anticipate the blog filling up again with new posts, many of which may be a waste of your time to read. But I have a small hope that perhaps this one will inspire you to waste some more of your time doing things that matter to you in life, even if they don’t bring you closer to your more immediate and tangible life goals: getting that promotion, making the perfect cupcakes for your son’s birthday, or maybe for 5 minutes being on top of the incessant laundry. If we don’t take the time to enrich our lives with superfluous activities, social connections, and learning, then really What is the Point?

p.s. I’m sure most of you already know all of this, but I keep having to get wake-up calls to remind myself what matters before I die of a thousand tiny stresses.


  1. Choosing among time commitments can be soul-crushing, even if you are not working for a promotion. The time to read and write is important. Does the knowledge of having readers help you to choose to write? If that the case let me assure you that I enjoy "wasting my time" in your blog. Today, I forgo lunch, so I can write a little before picking-up the little one from a friend's house. I believe it is worth it.

  2. Hi Jess! I think you are a great writer! I love your blogs! Keep 'em comin'!

  3. Whoever told you that you were wasting your time is wrong. I love your blogs. Every single one. They make me incredibly happy and inspire me. You know what is a waste of time? Telling people that things they are talented at an enjoy are a waste of time. Honestly. Hurumph.