Eric Mayer

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Yesterday, while I was supposed to be writing, I read An Idler's Life in which Katie Renz interviews author Tom Hodgkinson.

His book, How to be Idle, just out in the United States, is a treatise on living a life of leisure and should be required reading for the Western world's workaholics -- and especially for Americans, who with their collective 415 million unused vacation days last year and pathetic 53 percent job dissatisfaction rates could evidently use some edifying pointers on successful loafing.

Among Hodgkinson's interesting observations is this:

There are a lot of little tricks you can do to inject a bit more time into the day. Most important is limiting yourself to a 40 hour week, not working 50 hours or 60 or 70. It's just crazy. It's actually irresponsible to you and irresponsible to your family and friends. Why should your employer's profits be more important than your own family? You're not even going to get any of the profits -- all you get is not losing your job. It's a very negative system.

You have to ask, what kind of schedule would I like to work by, and is it possible in my life to create that way of working? That becomes your aspiration. In a way it's ambitious, but the ambition is to be your own boss.

Idleness is not only desirable, but productive.

Yesterday I was supposed to have polished off a chapter. It should've been a cinch. I had it all laid out and it was a short chapter at that. Then I decided to double-check a location. Streets led to alleyways and Victorian photographs and newspaper interviews with militant vicars (who wished to transport the unfortunate underclasses to permanent settlements) and quite a few other places besides. Yes, even an article about idleness.

It was a very long time before I found my way back to the chapter. I couldn't help feeling I'd wasted the afternoon in idleness. I had not met my goal, had failed to produce anything. Rather than buckling down to the task at hand I had gone gallivanting and returned with a collection of gewgaws, while my patiently waiting document had not been benefited by a single word.

Oddly enough, however, a few plot ideas had suggested themselves to me, and some of the gewgaws, now that I look at them more closely, will, I expect, go very nicely in future chapters. In fact, more than one of the oddities I found suggest scenes all by themselves.

As it tuned out I did finish the cahpter after all, more or less, in first draft. But I do have to keep reminding myself that creativity doesn't punch a time clock. To make things up it is necessary to do nothing. At least for me.

Rarely do I find interesting ideas while I'm actually searching for them. Dare I say it? Ideas are like cats. They only approach when you ignore them.

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