As a writer with a chronic illness, I spend a lot of time at doctor’s appointments. What that really means is that I spend a lot of time waiting. Anyone who’s ever had to make a trip to the doctor’s office, and I’d guess that’s most of us, has experienced the loss of a huge chunk of time, stolen from the day.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You rush around at home in order to get to your doctor appointment early. You arrive fifteen minutes before your scheduled appointment, your child in tow. You check in, take a seat, and wait.
That momentary feeling of pride because you made it on time is quickly replaced with the thought, how long will we have to wait for the doctor?
You glance at your child playing with the waiting room toys in the corner. You think about all of the sick kids who played there before. You reassure yourself that surely someone must sanitize the toys on a daily basis.
You leaf through a magazine, so boring. You scroll through your phone, check your e-mail, Facebook, Twitter. You wonder if it’s okay to have your phone on in here. You look around and notice that half the other people waiting are on their phones too.
Now it’s five minutes past your appointment time, now ten, now twenty, now thirty. Your child has played with every toy and looked at every book. He/she’s grown restless and so have you. Your mind wanders to all the things you could be doing. Is writing one of them?
Next time, grab a notebook and pen on your way out the door. Here’s why you’ll want to bring these valuable tools to all of your appointments:
1. To pass the time. You’ll be surprised at how much writing you can get done while waiting for your appointment. If you write picture books, as I do, you may even get a whole draft written.
2. To record observations. Watch people, especially children, and write down character traits or bits of dialogue you overhear. They might come in handy for current or future writing projects.
3. To practice writing. Study the paintings on the waiting room walls or look at pictures in magazines and use what you see as writing prompts to exercise your writing muscles. Jot down words or feelings that come to mind, or write a short story.
4. To brainstorm ideas. Use your waiting time to think about a work in progress or a new story you’ve been wanting to start. Brainstorm words, characters, names, revisions, dialogue, setting, etc.
5. To practice drawing. If you’re an illustrator, use your wait time to sketch new characters and scenes or just to practice your skills. Sketch objects or people you see in the waiting room. Make notes on colors that have caught your eye. Copy pictures from magazines.
6. To support your budding author or artist. Bring an extra notebook and pen for your child so that he/she can practice writing or drawing too.
7. To keep your mind off of unpleasant things. I don’t know anyone who would say they enjoy going to doctor’s appointments. If you have to go, it’s usually because you, or your child, are sick or suffering from a medical condition of some kind. Writing or drawing will allow your mind to drift away from a potentially unpleasant experience and focus on something fun instead.
So, the next time you’re rushing out the door to get to an appointment, don’t forget to bring along a notebook and pen. When your wait time seems to fly by because you’ve written three new paragraphs for your middle grade novel, or you’ve come up with an idea for a brand-new picture book story, or you’ve outlined your entire YA contemporary, you’ll be glad you turned the waiting room into a Writing Room.