The mighty cheetah must sometimes wait for dinner to come
to him... That dinner is you...
No matter who you are, sitting in a pale beige room, bored out of your skull as your brain devolves into a mollusk is no fun... While some individuals are able to retreat into the pastoral recesses of imagination during these times, this enduring patience is not a skill frequently cultivated in Western culture. Despite its diverse beauty, Colorado has more than it's share of boring locales: doctor's waiting areas, the driver's license and motor vehicle office (in many other states those are combined), the county courthouse, the light rail station after you just missed your train by four seconds, only to learn the next will not be arriving for a half an hour...
Being bored is frustrating. During these times, it just feels like there are too many important things you could be doing rather than just sitting... like a lump in the mud.
The encouraging thing is writers have an advantage over many other professions. Whether by cultivating your mind or contributing small amounts of work to an ongoing project, there are a number of ways writers can "redeem the time" when life starts moving a bit too slow.
1) Brainstorm: Writers exist in the precarious position that we are always having to develop new content. It doesn't matter whether you're fiction or non-fiction based, a good brainstorming session never loses its value. Don't have anything to write on? Make use of nearby materials: napkins, paper dining ware, flyers, a paper tablecloth, your snotty nephew's white t-shirt. Brainstorm character ideas, plot twists, titles, or new topics in your niche. As I've said in previous articles, like the noble chimpanzee, start flinging crap onto the page. Amongst all that rubbish, you very well may find yourself mining some gems.
2) Read, Read, Read: I know I've hammered this dead horse into proverbial glue recently, but the rule still stands. Writers need to read a lot. Plan ahead for dull time by bringing a book with you. If you have an iPod, there are a number of E-Books you can download to keep some classics on hand. Forgot to bring a book? Do a scan to see if there's anything to read nearby. If you spy a magazine you normally would never dream of picking up, give it a whirl. Explore the content and writing style. Reading is one of the easiest things to fill dead time with.
3) Write Short and Simple: Remember those paper napkins I mentioned earlier? Even if you forgot your trusty notebook, you can still use dead time to write something short. Outline an article or plot that's been stirring in your mind. Write a short story or try your hand at poetry. Write up log-lines for your scripts or scribble out a character description. Heck, do a rough draft of a query letter. Just because you're waiting for that irritating little vibrating coaster to sound off doesn't mean you can't get some tried and true work in.
4) Observe and Report: All too often, writers forget how crucial observation is to our craft. People-watching may feel taboo, but it's a valuable exercise to try. Attempt to imagine what sort of characters people might be. Try to picture what their story is. Pay attention to the details of your surroundings, like the way sparrows quarrel for a bit of muffin or that the factory across the street would make an excellent location for a shootout. You know what we have a lot of in Colorado that makes for some really fun observation? Geese. We have armies of them... When all else fails, watch the way geese interact. Give them voices in your mind. Try to determine why they hiss at passing rollerbladers...
5) Exercise your Imagination: Remember how I mentioned certain people can just retreat into their minds when dead time abounds? Practice this skill. Close your eyes and play out one of your story's scenes in your head. Try to picture exactly what a character looks like, down to the nitty gritty details. Improvise a conversation in your brain... In short, learn how to daydream again. The mind is not as bad a vacation spot as it sounds.