I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day.
Tim Kreider’s article on being busy in the New York Times opinion pages a couple days ago struck a chord with a lot of people and I saw it all over my twitter feeds and Facebook pages. He makes a good point about our general state of disrepair when it comes to the amount of activities we fill our lives with. That said, I think he does other “idle” employees (namely, writers) a disservice by over-romanticizing what happens in the down time between writing time.
First, it’s interesting to note the sharp contrast between the definition as proposed by the OED, that we are “actively engaged, doing something that engrosses the attention” and the way Kreider’s identifies “busy”:
It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.
Absolutely four or five hours of “actively engaged” writing that “engrosses the attention” is markedly better than eight hours of distracted, annoying, or unwanted busy time that stresses me out. In the summer, after four hours of productivity I may as well go get a “rum bucket” with friends at the Harbor Shack in Rock Hall, MD. The difference, perhaps, between me and Krieder, is that I don’t at all feel like a “reprobate” if I go kayaking or engage in spontaneous outings with friends instead, or even if I take an entire day to watch end-on-end episodes of some long-ago TV show from my youth (seriously, what else were we supposed to do during this stretch of 100+ degree heat?). Continue reading