Use this technique for: making wait times a lot more bearable.
Starting point: when you have a spare moment and not much else to do.
Stopping point: when the spare moment ends.
Band’s over, but the rain’s still falling and looks like it will be for some time. So I guess I’ll pass the time here until the clouds pass over. Story of my life, really. I could have another drink, but I know I’d regret it in the morning, so I’ll get drunk on words instead.
Any time I venture from the house, I carry four essential items with me—keys, wallet, phone and catbook.
A catbook is a small notebook that I use to free write in. I’ve used miniature hardbound journals with fancy covers and I’ve used cheap tiny notebooks from the drugstore. (Lately, I’ve taken to sticking them in my back jeans pocket, and thus I’ve rather lost interest in the hardbound ones.) The important thing is that it fits easily in a purse or pocket and is not burdensome to carry.
As I mentioned, I started to carry one in the event that A Brilliant Idea would strike me over the head and I would have a place to write it down before it got away. I still use it for that now and again, but I mostly use it while I’m waiting for things.
Many of my catbooks have been filled while I waited for public transportation to arrive. I’ve used them in waiting rooms, restaurants, bars, long lines and even in exceedingly bad traffic (though I’m quick to put the book down the moment things start to move.) I’ve also done some rather shaky writing on moving buses. (If you’re one of those fortunate souls who can read while in a moving vehicle without suffering motion sickness, you may not need this. If, like me, you need the movement of the pen to signal to your brain that the inner ear is not kidding, you will find this a great way to spend the ride if you’re already familiar with what’s out the window.)
Catbooks will allow you to do things like chronicle your comings and going as you come and go, to vent about frustrating situations without taking it out on other people (waiting rooms, for example, are fine examples of frustrating situations) and to jot down your observations about your surroundings. If there’s something on your mind that has nothing to do with your surroundings, you can just as easily write that down instead. They don’t have to be written in nonstop, you can write for as long as you feel like and then put the book down and look around for a bit and then dive back in again. Write when you’re in a place where you can write and stop writing when it’s time to stop (such as when the bus, the food or the time for the appointment arrives.)
Catbooks also liberate you from the stultifying notion that one needs “quiet time”, an antique desk with a beautiful view and a perfect cup of tea in order to write. Indeed, you may find that the more tumultuous the surroundings, the more interesting the results.
Writing allows you to look busy so people will generally leave you alone. Sometimes people will ask what you’re writing. You are under no particular obligation to tell them. If I’m feeling particularly smartass, I’ll say “words” and leave it at that. If I’m feeling more sociable, I’ll explain what a catbook is to them. If you wanted to explain that’s it something you picked up from this nifty site called Wonderbink.com, go right ahead.
A revised version of this entry can be found in the ebook Catbooks and Other Methods.