Sunday, February 21, 2010



Most people consider frittering, daydreaming, pottering, procrastination etc. to be unproductive and a waste of time. But it seems this is wrong.

while we potter and putter we think so these are actually highly productive activities. Staring into space and doing mindless things are aids to thinking. Profound ideas take shape in our brain while we're apparently doing nothing. Frittering is also soothing, making the brain more receptive to new ideas. IBM used to (perhaps still does) pay employees to stare into space.  According to this Wall Street Journal articleeven Descartes and Archimedes may have been staring into space when they made their great discoveries. "In fact, our brain may be most actively engaged when our mind is wandering"a new brain-scanning study suggests. This NY Times article also supports frittering.  

So, don't feel guilty, go ahead and gaze at an intricate painting, watch water swirling around the sink, pore over wood grain, stare into space, dream, dawdle or twiddle and sooner or later your relaxed brain will make connections, see patterns and fresh ideas will bloom. 

Staring and fiddling may be good for cogitating and pondering, but keep a notebook handy to capture those sparkling insights; fritter-thinking can be fleeting and quickly forgotten.



lksienkiewicz said...

I shall refer to your post when I'm staring out the window and my husband asks "what are you doing?" and I tell him "writing."

Nora Lumiere said...

Absolutely. I defy anyone not to think while they fritter so, since writing is 99% thinking, of course you're writing.

Marisa Birns said...

I can sit down for a moment and look out the window. A few "minutes" later, I can get up to get something to drink and see that A hour or so has gone by!

So I am frittering, then? Excellent.

Nora Lumiere said...

Frittering is an unjustly reviled pass time. If anyone appraoches you while you're frittering, just put your hand on your chin and mutter Hmmm.