Continuing to make my way through Doing Nothing. This passage particularly struck me:
I try to convince myself that some of the time I spend entertaining myself is a kind of work. I’m a literature professor, and so reading novels is work, obviously, and given the importance of popular culture these days, even the airport thrillers and mysteries are important for me to read. And I can’t ignore the more dominant forms of narrative in my own time, can I? So all those movies, all that TV — work. It’s important for me, professionally, not just to be cognizant of but to study popular culture, and so I work to stay current, watching The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Daily Show, going to see the latest Hollywood blockbusters (and of course the festival-anointed independents), reading Harper’s and The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, surfing the reality shows and Tivo-ing Billy Wilder and Michael Curtiz films. Oh, and Reno 911 (very interesting) and Iron Chef (fantastic) and Arrested Development and reruns of The Rockford Files. And of course March Madness and the NBA play-offs. Where would one draw the line? A lot of sitting on the couch is involved, as it turns out, but still, this is all a kind of work for me, isn’t it?
And here’s one good reason to pursue the life of a writer or artiste—not just that the job involves very little of what others call work, but that it becomes easy to obscure the line between work and play. It is very easy to look at the garbageman watching a movie or sitting at the beach and say, you are not working. But if I call myself a writer I can argue that everything I do is part of my job; everything that’s feeding into my brain is going to marinate in there for a while and eventually become part of The Work, even if an unrecognizable one. So what if I often appear to work very little, if at all; can you say for sure that there’s not a thousand-page manuscript in my bottom drawer that’s going to stun the world when I disingenuously instruct my literary executor to burn it, knowing full well that he will not? No, you can’t say for sure, not 100%, and there’s the wiggle room I’m looking for; maybe today’s Wii golf marathon will somehow contribute to tomorrow’s masterpiece.
I could go on, but I may already have said too much. Fortunately, very few people will read this.