We are a driven people, New Yorkers. Too much to do, not enough time. We keep lists; we crowd our schedules; we look for more efficient ways to organize ourselves — we get things done when we’re not too busy planning to get things done. Even our leisure time is focused, and there is something proactive about our procrastination. We don’t merely put things off. We put things off by piling other things on top of them. As Robert Benchley once noted, “anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”
But every now and then there comes a day for puttering. You can’t put it in your book ahead of time because who knows when it will come? No one intends to putter. You simply discover, in a brief moment of self-awareness, that you have been puttering, or, as the English would say, pottering. It often begins with a lost object. Not the infuriating kind that causes you to turn the house upside down while looking at your watch, but the speculative kind. “I wonder where that is,” you think.
You begin to look. Your attention is diverted almost immediately and then diverted again. You move through the morning with a calm, oblivious focus, taking on tasks — incidental ones — in the order they present themselves, which is to say no order at all. Puttering is small-scale, stream-of-consciousness problem-solving. It is setting sail on a sea of random course changes. The day passes, and you have long since forgotten what you were looking for — or that you were looking for anything at all. You feel as though you’ve accomplished a lot, though you have no idea what. It has been a holiday from purpose.
Friday, July 01, 2011
On the art of puttering...
Here is an engaging editorial from the NYTimes I've been meaning to pass on. It's sentiments strike very close to my own experience.