The Blessing of Everyday Tasks
“The best time for planning a book is when you’re doing the dishes.”
Lately I’ve been having conversations with a friend about the importance of the menial, everyday tasks in our lives, and how they provide wonderful opportunities to let our minds loose to roam, explore, and process.
We live in such a noisy world. Whenever we’re driving or folding laundry or jogging, it’s tempting to always have our iPods or cell phones in our ears, or the TV or radio on in the background. How desperately we avoid having few moments of silence!
But I am more and more aware of the importance of allowing our minds to be free once in awhile. We can create silence—when our hands are busy—so that we can hear our own thoughts, so that ideas can form, so that our subconscious can help us solve problems, so that we can hear the voice of God. I believe that when we constantly have “input” into our brains in the form of music or voices, we rob ourselves of the crucial processing time our minds need in order to be creative and access all of our intelligence.
I’m not talking about dedicated prayer or meditation time, which is important in its own right. I’m talking about doing the dishes, walking the dog. Cleaning out the car or driving to work. Times when our hands and bodies are busy doing something that doesn’t require our entire brain’s worth of concentration. These are times we can stop seeing as boring or wasted time, but as valuable “free time” for our minds. We can enter them with no agenda except to have no agenda. We can get used to the solitude and eventually come to appreciate the riches that can be found in the quiet.
One of my favorite books is The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris. In it, she encourages us to treasure rare moments of solitude and silence and to avoid distracting ourselves with television and the like. The menial tasks of life, she says, can be “islands of holiness” in an otherwise chaotic and noisy life. This has been hard for me to get used to. I’m constantly downloading podcasts from iTunes and listening while I fold laundry or dust the furniture. I listen to music when I go running or workout at the gym. But I’m trying to open up some of these times to the silence.
If you are a writer, then these times are incredibly important for you. Your brain needs open space to create, to solve plot and character problems, to clarify your position on an issue you’re exploring in your writing, to come up with just the right word for that problematic sentence you’ve struggled with.
I challenge you today to start looking at your daily “quotidian” tasks in a new light. Not as something to dread or simply get through, not as a time to catch up on the TV news, but as a gift from God, a time to allow the silence and discover its treasures.
What will you find there?
BLOGGING SCHEDULE THIS WEEK: I’ll post Tues & Weds, then I’m taking the holiday weekend off so we can all enjoy our Thanksgiving break. Back to regular schedule next Monday, Dec. 1st.