Don’t just do something; stand there! —Martin Gabel


In my novel The Dreamway, there’s a character named Spuddle. That’s actually an old, obscure word that means to make a fuss over something small or to work inefficiently. In my book, Spuddle was a mechanical dragonfly who was obsessed with paperwork. In real life, Spuddle is all of us.

Our constantly-busy-nostop-notifications-on-our-phones society makes it easy to be constantly busy. The Old English word bisig from which busy derives, meant not only “continually occupied” but also included a sense of being anxious. That sense carried into early Modern English, with the idea of busybodies who were continually meddlesome in others’ affairs.


Historically, the word busy meant being occupied...but not necessarily happily so. Much of our current busy-ness is of the same nature—neither productive work nor restorative leisure.

It’s difficult work to separate ourselves from the constant state of being busy. After all, being busy is seen as a sign of being important. But those things are not necessarily linked. How much of what we do is actually just spuddling? If we managed to stop being busy for a moment, what important things might we find time for?

Stand There

This week, I plan to find some time to stop doing and simply stand there. To step back and see the big picture, observing what is going well and how I might shed myself of some of my self-inflicted busy-ness. Any time I recapture can be rededicated to things I actually enjoy, like reading, spending time with family, and—of course—writing.