Posted by: JanF | April 17, 2011

Time to think

As another week of frantically driving between sports and school related events came to a close, I took some time to stop and think about thinking.

The school year is winding down and next year my daughter will be in middle school. The transition from elementary school to middle school requires some decisions. Decisions about elective classes, decisions about band and orchestra and chorus, decisions about substituting classes for study halls. And decisions about sports … which sports she will keep playing for fun and which ones she will concentrate on so that she can play in more competitive leagues.

I started thinking about helping her manage her schedule (and my schedule) and it made me recall an article I had read by Anna Quindlen many years ago when she wrote a column for Newsweek magazine. I set my Googles on it and found it pretty quickly probably because the key words came from what I remembered about the article which really resonated with me at the time (eight years ago).

The article is titled Doing Nothing Is Something and, as it turned out, the column was also contemplating the end of school. It starts with this:

Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don’t believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.

And ends with this:

Perhaps it is not too late for American kids to be given the gift of enforced boredom for at least a week or two, staring into space, bored out of their gourds, exploring the inside of their own heads. “To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do,” said Victor Hugo. “Go outside and play,” said [my mother] Prudence Quindlen. Both of them were right.

I highly recommend you read the parts in between.

In our household, we actually plan “nothing” for the first few weeks after school gets out because the stress of a school year should not give way to the stress of “summer activities”. Later in the summer there will be an enrichment course or two and swimming lessons but the break is important. My daughter requested it on her own last year and it worked well so we will be doing it again this year.

Just as rests in music are important to how a song sounds, rests in our lives are essential to its harmony.

We need time to think. We need time to allow creativity to find us and it can’t do that when were are moving 200 miles an hour.

Take some time to do nothing because it is, truly, something.

(A version of this was originally posted on 04/17/2011 at BPI Campus)