Saturday, June 17, 2006

Procrastination, or work???

Here's a book review that was forwarded to me through a freelancers' group I belong to. A lot of it certainly rings true for me, and now I have an excuse to procrastinate when I should be working on a story, because I'm actually working!

doing nothing
"... The hard part of writing is not the typing part, but the thinking part," writes Dave Barry in the New York Times (6/5/06). "If you were to come into my office," Dave continues, "you would most likely see me engaged in some activity that did not appear, to your untrained eye, to be work." Dave might be clipping his toenails, surfing the web or "thrashing around" with his electric guitar in a "futile but ongoing (for nearly four decades) attempt to learn the guitar part to "Paperback Writer." What you'd be missing is that while Dave "was engaged in these seemingly pointless activities" he was "thinking about a critical writing issue, such as: Which is the funnier-sounding mineral name, feldspar or potash? It takes hours of grueling mental effort to solve that kind of problem, but you, the reader, see only the finished product (feldspar).

"Upon this premise, Dave reviews "Doing Nothing," by Tom Lutz, which addresses questions such as "What is work? Why do we work? Is it a moral duty, or do we do it only because we have to? Is it O.K. not to work if we can get away with it? Do we resent those who are able to slack? Or do we envy them?" Tom wrote the book apparently out of anger at his slacker son, who was taking a year off before college to watch television. What bugged Tom was that his son's behavior pretty much reminded him of his own youth, when "he spent a fair number of years engaged in countercultural activities not widely considered productive." The book traces "the history of society's attitudes toward working and slacking," starting with "two 18th-century giants ... Benjamin Franklin, creator or the archetypal workaholic, Poor Richard" and "Samuel Johnson, creator of the 'Idler' who believes the only value of work is to enable leisure, and the highest calling is to do as little as possible."The Franklin view is the dominant one in America, but what Tom Lutz discovers "over and over (and over) is that slackers and workaholics aren't always as different as they appear." Ben Franklin liked to party, for example, and Samuel Johnson was a prolific writer. "We scorn the lazy... but we long to hit the lottery ... We criticize our kids for doing exactly what we did when we were their age." Ultimately, says Tom, we need slackers "as a goad to examining our relations to work, as a critique of our culture's twisty relation to work and to leisure, and as a celebration of the same." Dave says that "Doing Nothing" left him with "a deeper appreciation of the value of not working ... In fact," he concludes, "I wish I could do more of it," adding: "Alas, I cannot: these toenails aren't going to clip themselves."

1 comment:

Delaleuverses said...

I am a novelist and I totally agree with the article from New York Times, sometimes I find it a challenge to think about my characters, the dialogue comes easy but the description of the characters and what they're doing before, during and after is what gets to me. Thanks for sharing