An Interesting Wait


I was walking through Costco with my son, Sawyer, when I noticed he had drifted into his mind and begun mumbling to himself. When he was a kid, I’d let this go, since he was nearly impossible to reach once he went within himself and started telling his stories. But he’s 20 now, and he wants to break himself of the habit, so I swatted him on the arm and said, “Hey, man. What’s going on?”

“Sorry,” he said. Then he paused, thought a moment, and admitted something to me for the first time. “You know why I do it most of the time? I’m just bored.”

“I get it,” I said. “I’ll kind of do it in the middle of a conversation myself. People will be going on about the weather or what they might have for dinner, and I’ll just drift into my own little world where things are always interesting.”

“I just get so bored so fast.”

“I know. Here’s the trick, I think. First you have to let yourself listen to what people actually are saying because maybe there’ll be something surprising you wouldn’t notice unless you are listening carefully. And then you have to wait. You have to wait and give them or just the world around you a chance to change until something more interesting comes along. There’s always something else coming along, and eventually it’ll be interesting.”

He nodded, but I could see he’d already quit listening. Baby steps. Still, I’d never thought that way about boredom and the autistic retreat to which Sawyer and I are both so prone. After all, what is it I do when I’m writing? Mostly, listening and waiting; waiting and listening. Eventually, if I give what I listen to when I write a chance, something interesting comes along.

Not always so easy away from the page. I grow impatient with others, with the Internet and TV, with just the whole damn world. How tempting to retreat to my cave of make-believe and invention. The problem is I’m looking at things backwards. I can’t expect the world to bring me my interest. Instead, I have to rest where my interest always resides, rest where the writing takes place, and look out from there and wait, wait, wait. Just like I wait for the right word, I wait until something comes along that matches my interest. This way, I never have to leave it, be without, or hope it will be delivered. I already have it; I’m just looking for more of it.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.