In Praise of Dawdling Time

I spent five days camping where this was my view–the Tombigbee River. When I go off in my camper, I forget about my so-called normal life–schedules, demands, writing, bills. That’s the point of a get-away, after all. My camper life is one of driving curvy roads through the countryside, photographing long-abandoned houses and buildings, reverently strolling old cemeteries and taking photographs of headstones. Setting in a lawn chair and considering life, watching bugs, studying the light on the trees.

When camping, I get to do my favorite thing–dawdle.

I have a friend who uses the term puttering. The long-gone writing teacher Brenda Ueland called it ‘moodling’ time.

“The imagination needs moodling,–long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

~ Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

John Steinbeck, in his Journal of a Novel, noted that he seemed to have a certain ratio of dawdling time to actual writing. He speculated that if he could figure out the needed ratio of dawdling to writing that he could increase his writing time, a theory that intrigues me.

I looked up dawdling on the online thesaurus. Do you know, all the synonyms for the word dawdling are negative and unfavorable. Certainly dawdling is not an encouraged activity in society. Efficient accomplishment is encouraged and what it takes to get on in the world. Dawdling is considered akin to immorality.

When I return from my camping trips, I always find myself quite lost. There is before me a mountain of details that require capable attention: emptying out the camper, laundry, cleaning the camper, cleaning the house floors from much tracked inside, the bills. Where did I put this? Where did I put that? How could I have left that undone? Efficiency is the order of the day, and certainly, given my creative nature, not my most robust skill. Thus I tend to feel overwhelmed.

I have been home two full days and finally brought myself to my desk and computer this morning at 10:00 a.m. to write. Two hours later, I put fingers on the keyboard. What was I doing for those two hours? I perused my calendar, marked notes with blue and red ink, popped up to make a cup of tea, held the turquoise mug for a bit, investigated some desired changes to my website. All the while, in the back of my mind was this critical voice getting louder and louder, haranguing me about wasting time.

And that was when the dawdling word surfaced. As if my dear mind said, “Eureka!” a certain clear understanding dawned.

The dawdling is what settled me. With the dawdling, after two days of pushing myself to be efficient, I began to come home to myself. I became content and centered with the dawdling, and as contrary as it sounds, I seem to have gained efficiency with the dawdling, along with energy and direction. I feel as if I can breathe again.

I think Steinbeck was onto something. There is a certain requirement for some of us to dawdle, much like we require water and air and exercise. Definitely dawdling is equally valuable. The way walking builds my physical muscles, dawdling builds my creativity and spirit. I think I’ll schedule it on the calendar every day and see what comes of it.

I’ll let you know how this turns out.

6 thoughts on “In Praise of Dawdling Time

    • That is how I have thought for myself, and felt dawdling as a great flaw. I was being influenced by the world and dictionary’s negative slant. So glad to become aware of the new attitude.


  1. Thanks for this lovely “dawdle” with you !

    I have a British friend that I telephoned one day. Her 6 year old daughter answered the phone. I asked to speak with her mother. The little girl’s response was “I’m sorry but she can’t come to phone right now. Mummy has gone flops.”
    I think “flops” is real close to a “dawdle!@

    Liked by 1 person

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