Writing, Meditation, and the Irreplaceable Value of Wasted Time

Writing, Meditation, and the Irreplaceable Value of Wasted Time

Writing BooksI stop myself from writing my thoughts so much any more. I have too many thoughts that I think would come out the wrong way. A filter built into my fingers to say, no you can’t say that. Or maybe that is just right now or maybe it is holding myself to not wasting my time. It happened right about the same time I realized the internet was real. Before then, I wrote things and random messages came back from this box.

Wasting time I guess is subjective. I always worry about it but I am trying to stop. It does no good. It has me thinking of the next thing I am going to do instead of enjoying the thing I am doing. Always living in the future and missing out it when it gets there because I am thinking about the next future. Being present is not my strong suit.

So I try to waste my time on purpose through meditation. And maybe I put it wrong. But if I look at it that way it encourages me to waste my time in other ways, like driving instead of thinking of the next move for one website or another. Or sleeping instead of worrying whether or not the car purchase was a good decision. Or maybe wasting my time by eating a meal that is not in front a computer screen.

There is a little Republican that lives in my head and hates my lax, hippie ways. Things like eating, breathing, and having fun wake him up and he starts barking orders. I started writing this and had to resist the urge to save it. I am writing it somewhere I do not expect anything of myself and I erased the first paragraph after I wrote it and started again twice. So screw the little Republican now if he did not have the faith to let me get a few sentences out before I had something to say. I will burn this bitch.

Through meditation and through writing thoughts slow down and get in line instead of kicking and fighting and screaming for attention. I fight my way through meditation and beat myself up, but slowly, gradually, all thoughts look the same. Random, floating ideas with no rhyme or reason other than to try to get your attention.

Allow bad thoughts to take hold and you can think nothing else. Allow good thoughts to take hold and you are defining things now. Good and bad are only like and dislike. Just let every thought pass by without shaking you, though they will. You just always go back without scolding. Get out of my head, Yoda.

It helps with programming, especially after a long day of it without the relief of actually accomplishing much. You know these type of days. If you could just get this one thing finished, the day could be counted as OK. But then one bug after another has you at the computer two hours past when you expected to step away, but now you know you have to. And that one thing, will have to wait until tomorrow.

And for the next hour or two, you can’t sit still anyway or take your mind off that issue. But you know there are other things in life that need your attention also. It doesn’t care. It’s a thought that has had your attention all day. It knows your weaknesses. Just as you are about to escape it’s grasp, it suggests that you left the debugging code on the site you were working on which is currently printing out database details. Of course, you know you didn’t but that doesn’t matter. It digs in hard.

And that is why meditation is good. I had no idea that so much of my mental outlook depended on not dwelling on these things. And writing and meditation help me cut that cord. Sometimes a good book or movie. But on those “bugs are eating my time” days, only meditation will work. And then the others.

And the thoughts will fight like a bitch. Feed me, they say. Give my your attention. You know you want us embedded in your waking day, festering behind every other thought an action, tinting everything of beauty. And you may pass through an even more intense threshold of potential stress as they try their best with their greatest hits album. But you just have to go back to your breath with no pat on your back, no scolding words and focus on it. And of course, you know, this is the best case scenario. But you always stick to that best case scenario, give it no thought and return to your breath.

Writing is about the same way, at times, at least. At least when it is in a notebook, in handwriting that no one else can read. I can probably give you ten pages in the next hour. But when it is expected of me, that’s a different story. And that’s why I turned to meditation again.

I have been writing a book. Not the type of book I thought I would write 20 years ago when I was sure I was going to be a writer and got seduced into becoming whatever all the random things I do now amount to. And this blog post was going to be a warm up to writing an announcement for that book. At times it has been straight forward. At other times hard. And sometimes almost painful. I started stalling whenever I could and feeling shitty about it and it would flow into everything. But meditation and forced wasting time helped. I now have close to 220 pages.

So I guess I wasted the time I was going to spend on that post and it will have to wait for another day. And all I have to show for it is this post that started as free writing that I erased twice. And then I gave up and allowed myself to waste time, be here and write something I really needed to know, that I never planned for.

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Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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