The equitable division of shirking labour

Last night, I did nothing.

That is, I got no work done on Where Angels Die, which it had been my firm intention to do when I applied the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Instead, I sifted through the archives to choose the right essais for the Superversive collection, and whittled my list down to ten. (But ten of my longer pieces; the book will be slightly longer than Writing Down the Dragon, which will make it my largest collection yet.) Then I imported them into Word, made some necessary edits (mostly to eliminate repetitive bits), and formatted them for submission to Amazon’s Magic Ebook Gonkulator.

‘But you did nothing!’ cried Truman the Boneless Beast. I have introduced you to Truman before, I think. He is a fat little sluglike creature, boneless and quite possibly brainless, who inhabits the subbasement of my mind. His function, such as it is, is to criticize everything I do, and everything I omit to do, and make it out that I am a complete and miserable failure as a human being. I call him Truman because it helps me to imagine him talking in the voice of Truman Capote, who had a voice that nobody could possibly take seriously. (He sounded very much like Droopy, the sad little dog from the Tex Avery cartoons.)

Of course, Truman meant that I wrote no original copy – ignoring the fact that I did several hours of solid work, editing and formatting and so forth, amounting to about half the labour of putting out a new book. (The other half: I shall have to write a new essai especially for the collection, my standard nefarious plot to make my 3.6 Loyal Readers buy it instead of just reading it all here for free.)

So Truman and I have struck a deal; or rather, I have made Truman an offer that he can’t refuse. Every night, when I go to work, I shall do nothing on one particular project; and Truman can castigate me as much as he likes for that. And I shall sneak away and play hooky, and spend my time working on something else, so that I can feel a sense of virtuous accomplishment about the ‘nothing’ that I did.

I regard this as a very fair way to divide up the shirking of labour.

If any of you are afflicted with minor chores or big jobs that you don’t much want to do, and your own inner screamer (miscalled your conscience) is riding you illogically whether you do them or not, I can only humbly suggest that you give this method a try. It seems to be working for me, so far.

And now I hope you will excuse me. The hour draws nigh, and I have my lack of work cut out for me.


  1. I had to reread to figure out what you said, such is the condition of that which I call my mind at the end of the day, but if I interpret you right, you are NOT doing the A1 chore, and accepting ALL criticism for this fact, while getting quite a bit done on something else that needs doing.

    There is some real reverse psychology going on there – I congratulate you.

    Does it make the A1 chore easier to do next time you get to it?

    I am using my own copious data about the nonfunctional state of my brain to try to find time slots during the day in which I can fruitfully do certain things.

    For example, I have determined over years of recording the fact that my brain refuses to do any writing (which requires whatever creativity I might muster) after about 2:20PM.

    It doesn’t matter what time I get up – 2:20 comes around, and the brain says ‘that’s it for the day, sucker.’

    Optimally, I would like to get up at first light, get right to work, and have a lovely chunk of writing time before 2:20 (which I think is the limit because I may have to contact people who keep business hours and seem to think leaving at 4PM is enough time to be contacted). Alas, this plan is counteracted by the fact that I’m a useless slug at thinking for the first 2-3 hours of each day, and after that I need a nap.

    But it does help to start earlier – then I get SOME time to write instead of almost none.

    I will figure out how to integrate your intriguing idea – tell myself NOT to do the A1 on a regular basis – and get some of those other chores done, the ones I keep ignoring because I want to be available to write.

    Thanks for the idea.

  2. Andrew Parrish says

    Haven’t commented in some time – allow me to congratulate you on your publications. I will be picking something up in just a bit. Write while the wind holds, and damn the Trumans. God bless you.

  3. Carbonel says

    The other half: I shall have to write a new essai especially for the collection, my standard nefarious plot to make my 3.6 Loyal Readers buy it instead of just reading it all here for free.

    I am truly torn. On the one hand, elementary compassion ought to spur one to spare Mr. Simon unnecessary labor. Not to mention the virtue of truth-telling. On the other hand… new essay…


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