In praise of pondering



Circe, 1911, by John William Waterhouse

“To ponder.” That’s the heading on some  cute sticky notes my husband gave me last week. He said I use the word “ponder” a lot, which was news to me. I thought he had just made that up until we were on the way to church Sunday morning and I heard myself say, “I was pondering the fact that …” And then I stopped myself. “Pondering,” I said. “See,” he said. Interesting.

So now I’m pondering my pondering. And frankly, I don’t dismiss pondering because I think it’s a useful and necessary activity for any creative individual. Some days as I’m deep into my work and trying to untangle a few words, I’ll stop and take a walk. Outside in the sunshine, I study the play of light and shadow on the street. I stop to check out the two creeks in the neighborhood. In spring, I sometimes pause to suck the syrup from a honeysuckle blossom, just as I used to do as a little girl. And miraculously, as I do nothing but walk down the street, my mind finds the answers that escaped me while sitting at my desk.

I also enjoy pondering time when I have a trip of an hour or more in my car. I sometimes keep the radio off just so that I can think about the book I’m writing and about those I’m still planning to write. In fact, it was during one of these recent “thinking time” sessions that I came up with a whole new idea for a cozy series. I won’t, however, let myself seriously explore it until I’ve made progress on the three other ones currently in various stages of development.

Apparently I’m not the only one who finds value in downtime. The May 12 issue of The Week has an article that talks about how some of the most accomplished people in history worked just four hours a day. The article says, “Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.”

“Just sitting and thinking” is highly underrated, but I’m in favor of carving out time for just that. Are you?

2 thoughts on “In praise of pondering

  1. I am absolutely in favor of it. I’ve often found that the best way to figure something out is to let go of it for a while and “ponder” something else.

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