Last night, I was wrapped up in writing a scene about Mark and Hadrian enjoying breakfast. Judging by the usual standard of my writing, it was not a particularly exciting scene. There was no arguing, no near death experiences, and no major plot twists. It was just a quiet, simple moment shared by two companions.
And frankly, I loved writing it, even to the point of lingering over the scene. (Oh, and I developed a craving for a piping hot breakfast in the process. This was duly cured by baking some lemon poppy seed loaves, one of the best breakfast foods in the world.)
Now if a NY editor were to read this scene, they’d probably tell me to cut or shorten it. After all, why waste words on a pair of characters eating breakfast?
But the thing is, it’s not a waste of words.
In the modern world, many people are constantly running around at a breakneck speed. In an average family, both parents might be working, while their kids spend the day in school. Then, after school, there are a boatload of activities. And, after that, there is supper, homework, and bed, with little to no time left for family.
Frankly, I don’t understand it. For, when all is said and done, does it really matter that someone did soccer, volleyball, and drama in high school in addition to taking several AP classes? Unless you have the potential to earn a scholarship or make a career out of these things, why pour so much time into them? Wouldn’t your hours better be invested in doing other relaxing things? A favorite hobby, for instance, such as learning magic tricks or coding or knitting. Or time spent with friends at the bowling alley? Or simply an hour or two alone, strolling through the park and thinking about life?
This is called the art of lingering, and it is sadly underrated these days. Lingering is not laziness. It is time deliberately invested in doing “idle” things.
It is in those quiet, still moments that you unwind and begin to discover who you are. Whether it’s talking with a friend, pouring time into a favorite hobby, or simply reflecting on the bigger picture in life, lingering is very important.
Last December, my best friend came to visit for a few days. It was a very special time, during which we did many things. We visited Antietam, saw some sights in Richmond, and went out to dinner one night. But for me the best times of all were when we’d stay up late at night talking.
It was in those quiet moments that we really caught up with each other. I was able to share things that had been weighing on my mind and receive advice from her. Our friendship, already so strong, deepened significantly during those hours when we did nothing “productive”.
That is why I include scenes like these in my writing. Are they absolutely essential to advancing the plot? No. But they are precious nonetheless.
There is nothing stunning about eating breakfast or having two characters talk about their horses or their favorite breakfast foods. Yet those ordinary moments, full of quiet peace, are rich in blessings.
To quote Hadrian’s words to Mark, “That was wonderful. We ought to begin more of our days like this.”