Driting=Drinking + Writing: An Exercise in Stretching Time

One of my passions is to find new ways in which I can stretch time and notice each moment as it transpires. It sounds odd, and I would like to put this hobby as an interest or activity on my CV, but “stretching time” does makes sound a bit vague and avant-garde, I realise. Still, as I enter my fourth decade of life, it can be quite humbling to look at photos of myself as a young child and wonder where the time has gone. Memory is a funny thing, and I can remember the events that happened around these photos as if they just happened, but the scary moment is the sensation of departing from that memory and fast-forwarding to the present. Everything in between is a blur and happens in a split-second. It’s that blur between the memory and the present that makes me ask “where has the time gone?”

According to research done by journalist and editor, Nicole Spector, there is a reason why time seems to go by so slowly when we are children, while it apparently speeds up as we get older. It’s not that time is actually moving any faster or that the laws of physics are warping as we age. We need to remember that “children have had less time on the planet, such that a year feels weightier, as well as the fact that we aren’t forming as many new memories once we reach adulthood.” When we have new experiences, these experiences are more impactful, and we notice them more than when we go through routines. Noticing our experiences helps us get this feeling of stretching time.

On a recent evening I hosted a “time-stretching” activity in association with Three Leafs Tea in Taipei. Run by an ambitious young entrepreneur, Nancy Lang, Three Leafs doesn’t define itself a tea shop, but rather a social enterprise, with the primary goal being to “solve the social problem of underpaid local tea growers. By source directly from each small tea garden, we help improve people’s life in the tea garden community.” This tea shop was the perfect location to host my first “Driting” group activity. I wanted to combine the elements of drinking and writing together to create an environment where participants could enjoy communication in a relaxed and patient environment, all while enjoying fresh Taiwanese tea. Although the activity was held during the current COVID-19 pandemic; however, we were able to maintain high social distancing and hygiene standards throughout the evening while connecting with one another.

The basic premise of driting is to communicate with others while sitting in the same setting, but without actually talking. All of the communication happens with pen and paper, and all phones or technology are to be put away during the activity’s time limit. For the first driting, I set a limit of one hour. Although there were a small number of participants, they were all open-minded about the activity itself and took part in it wholeheartedly. After turning off their phones, they wrote the reasons why they decided to join in this event.

After a memorable, but awkward introduction where time had already begun stretching for me at least, the clock was set for one hour, and the driting ensued. At first participants stayed in their seats and traded the clipboards and papers provided with the person sitting closest to them. Each person had his or her own tea pot and a choice of loose leaf Taiwanese tea to enjoy throughout the hour. The alarm was set to go off every 20 minutes initially to tell participants to switch with other writers and engage with each person, but this was already happening organically. People would take a clipboard and begin to answer questions or engage in conversations they were not a part of and it flowed together seamlessly. Without phones or a clock, time came alive and each moment was measured with the stroke of a pen, the sipping of tea, or just the thinking of a phrase.

Once the third and final 20 minutes of driting began, it became apparent that everyone was already “in the zone.” People were engaging and writing more fluidly with one another, and papers and pens were flying as if they were pattering feet skipping across stepping stones bridging two banks of a small creek. When the final alarm went off, the pens were still moving, and the conversations had not wrapped up. I allowed another couple of minutes to finish up the activity, asked the participants to organise their papers, and then asked them to answer two feedback questions pictured below.

Like a treasure chest of literature, all of the writings written in the first driting event will remain housed in Three Leafs currently and will be available for viewing after their renovation is finished sometime in early to mid June. I hope to hold another driting at some point in the near future, based on the feedback I received. Not only was I impressed at how malleable time felt during the process, as the seconds stretched with each stroke of the pen, but I was also surprised at the diversity of topics and writing as I wandered in and out of conversations. It felt like we were creating something together. Perhaps it wasn’t high literature, but it was a group process that each attending member was part of building together. Together we stretched time.

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The Clock Stops

The Clock Stops

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American residing in Asia since 2004. Blogs focusing on life observations, improv, food, creating a learning organisation, management, and stretching time.