Do nothing

Be all the nothing you can be

As I was sitting on the plane from Nashville to L.A., surrounded by a fourth-place cheering squad (I don’t know how big Southern California high schools are but there are at least 30 giggling, skinny, be-ponytailed and flip-flopped teenage girls intermittently folding themselves into impossible shapes and flinging hoodies over their heads before sleeping for long stretches ), various tired-looking women drenched in jewelry or juggling kids, and the usual assortment of white business dudes slaving away on their laptops 7 miles up (Who do they work for? Why didn’t they just Skype? Why are they so old and white-haired and balding?), I came across this little gem in the Southwest Supersonic or whatever the hell they call their magazine :


The article itself was about how to squeeze more happiness from your life, not how to be more creative, but I thought it was interesting what went unsaid : of course you want to be more creative, because it means you’ll be happier. I found a great many of the tips could just as easily slip into an article on how to be more creative:

  • Revise your workout playlist
  • Get into nature more often
  • Hit the gym
  • Venture beyond the familiar

They all have something in common, I unexpertly think: They reroute our brains; they shake things up.

My favorite on the list is probably the one pictured that says, “Do nothing.” Doing nothing is something on which I could expound for hours. I like to think I would have a PhD. in doing nothing if such courses were offered (they’d be too ironic ). Where I got my do-nothing tendencies is quite the mystery.

My octogenarian mother told me just the other day, as I helped her clean up the remnants of a Sunday dinner she’d started the night before, the big-production dinner she cooks every Sunday as long as at least one person is willing to come over and eat, that she would absolutely NOT get some rest that afternoon despite battling bronchitis. “Ellen!” she said, horrified, “The only time you lay down in the bed is when you’re nauseated or throwing up!”

That may be the saddest statement anyone’s ever said. Can you imagine the tragedy of a lifetime without knowing the joys of a stolen nap? My father is of the same ilk. I remember, growing up, on the rare days when was sick, he showered, got dressed and sat upright on the couch all day, feverish and uncomplaining, reading or doing crossword puzzles.

How did I come from these people, again?

Now , to be fair, my father does indulge in the pleasures of catching some zees in front of the TV and he loves going to the movies, unlike my mother, who irons when watching anything on TV that isn’t news and has to be forcibly dragged to the cinema. Yet both of them are very creative people.

They may shun laziness as one of the seven deadlies, but the pure bliss of idleness is something that feeds my soul as well as my creativity. I don’t want to tell you all the many ways there are to do nothing because that smacks of the same face-palm genius you find in recipes for ham sandwiches. (They’re really out there. Go ahead and Google; I’ll wait… OMG, I know — can you believe how stupid that is?? )


But I am going to give you the best homework assignment ever: pick a day in the next week during which you must complete a minimum of 30 minutes doing nothing productive. (There’s no maximum time limit, only a minimum. I know how you Type A’s are.) Let your conscience and perhaps your laundry pile be your guide. Repeat weekly, if not daily. Your mind, and your creative juices, will thank you.

And please, whatever you do, nobody tell my mom.


2 thoughts on “Do nothing

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