Taking Time to Be Idle: Make Like a Child and Dream ...

One of my New Year's resolutions is to read for leisure. Seems that for the past couple years, I'd pick up a book to do research or improve my profession or learn to be more productive or to simplify my workflow. There's a lot to be said for that, but I realized I never read for fun.

It was because I was feeding a culturally imposed need to constantly take in information. But after this holiday season, I felt a strong longing to read for personal enrichment (for feeding my spiritual or artist self) or just to have a laugh!

I decided to go with the first book my hand gravitated toward on the shelf, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, one I'd never read though I bought it more than a decade ago when building my Writer's Digest-suggested library. You wouldn't guess it was published in 1938; Ueland's principles are timeless and inspiring.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT One passage that resonated deeply was when Ueland speaks of the "dreamy idleness" of children, and how adults and children are wildly different in how they spend their time:

When a child is taken somewhere by his parents, he is not thinking nervously: are they late or early? is the furnace running at home? etc., but he lives at rest and looks out the window and sees and thinks. He lives in the present. That is why children enjoy looking and listening so much. ... They have tremendous concentration because they have no other concern than to be interested in things."

Children aren't burdened by the responsibilities and worries that adults have, but wouldn't it be great if we could all resolve to tap into our inner child every so often and really enjoy some quiet time to feed our imaginations? I remember as a child seeing shapes in the sky by staring up at the clouds for long stretches of time. I spent a lot of time observing nature. Ueland contends that the idleness in going for long solitary walks, watching the sunset or even sitting quietly in a chair is essential for enabling our creativity to flourish, for allowing the ideas to flow.

UNPLUG MORE AND REACT LESS I know several writers who've made resolutions to unplug this year, turning off ringers and checking their email only at designated times throughout the day, so as to encourage longer stretches of project time, rather than spending the day in a reactive way. I am starting to do the same.

A great tip shared by designer/writer Jenn Cole: If you check your email first thing in the morning, you're training your brain to operate reactively in short spurts, rather than in the non-staccato, big-picture-thinking way that creative projects require. So schedule set times for when you'll tackle your inbox.

Are you willing to channel your inner child to encourage your imagination this year? Share your favorite way to do so by commenting below.

In daydreams,