Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kreider on Busyness and Creativity

On The New York Times' June 30, 2012, opinion page, Tim Kreider (We Learn Nothing) discusses how busyness can prove inimical to creativity. Excerpts:
If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.” ...

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration -- it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.
Read the whole thingI like how Kreider says, "Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice" [emphasis added]. Of course, we know that idleness can be any one of those things. I wish he would've added that idleness can describe a state of mind as much as an activity level. See, more than just boasting, busyness often scales to one's period in life. I challenge anyone with children under the age of six to truthfully claim their day-to-day existence isn't cluttered with schedule-stretching ephemera. Still, I think Kreider's on to something. Though we can't always clear our calendars, we can make space in our skulls. Whether driving or cleaning, mowing the lawn or making dinner, there are plenty of periods where we can shift our minds into neutral. So turn off the radio. Power down the television. Unsubscribe from the podcast. Let your mind be idle, and see if you don't soon find yourself with a surfeit of creativity.

(Picture: CC 2011 by Dafne Cholet; Hat Tip: Stephen Parrish)

No comments: