Even when I'm not, it turns out that I am

Boy, am I fortunate. No more worries that I'm wasting time when I seem to do anything possible except write.

I now have the imprimatur of The New York Times ("Writers on Writers" series, Feb. 25, 2002) on what I've long known, or at least suspected, or at least hoped: "For a writer there is no such thing as wasted time."

The thought is almost as soothing as the day I visited a class for teachers of reading when we had beginning readers in the family.

"Don't worry if they're looking out the window," said my comforter. "That's reading, too."

The window gazers aren't wasting time. They're "reading" the world. They're storing up trees, birds, and butterflies. If you've never "read" a tree, how can you read the word for tree?

(When the word is encountered before the experience, anything can happen. One of our readers in residence always sounded out the mysterious "bed-raggled" where we saw "bedraggled.")

Same with writing, or so I'd like to convince well-wishers who ask what I'm working on.

"Doing research," I may say, instead of "looking out the window," though we now know that that's writing, too. I certainly can't neglect all those little things that may seem like not writing if I ever want to do what seems like writing.

If only I could just relax and enjoy the insight that I'm never wasting time, I'm always writing.

Yet I begin to feel guilty when I note that the earphone wires on my helpmeet's pocket radio are invitingly tangled. Should I write long enough to untangle them?

The light in the freezer compartment flashes off and on. Takes only a sentence or two to discover it's not the bulb, it's the little switch activated by the door. A squirt of WD-40 does the trick without using up more than a couple of commas.

Let's look around a bit.

My, a lot of twigs were left lying in the yard after the fall pruning. A thousand words should be enough to rake them up.

Uh-oh, that e-mail file is getting long. Better spend a few paragraphs to clean it out.

What? We're out of baby wipes and the grandchildren are coming tomorrow? I'll be glad to "write" over on my bike and get some.

Slinky toy left jumbled up instead of slinky? A three-stanza job dwindles to one with an unsought revelation: All you have to do is keep twisting counterclockwise, and the coils fall back into place.

This shoelace is wearing thin. Better replace it before it actually goes. Let's see, a few pages of prose to find the extra laces saved for five years. Not quite the right length, but just half a page to thread one in.

This little frying pan certainly seems to have become corroded. Hard to clean, no matter how much I write. But adding Zud to SOS helps. I guess I'll have to stop before the next period.

So now I'm sitting at the word processor thinking of the opus I might have time for if I weren't writing all the time.

What, me dozing while watching television? No, I was writing.

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