Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, September 28, 2020

A Disciplined Lethargy

I've been trying to do things lately.  Trying to get some exercise.  Trying to get some work done on the house.  Trying to do more writing and revising on The Great War.  So many things seemed to fall by the wayside during this odd, on-pause year, and in general they've been replaced with... nothing.  

Nothing real, at any rate.  Check Facebook.  Check Twitter.  Check the latest COVID stats.  See how the stock market is doing.  See how the novel is selling.  Maybe someone has said something on Facebook by now.  

I've done a few interviews (mostly with Catholic radio stations) to help promote If You Can Get It where I've been asked "You've got seven kids and a full time job, how do you find the time to write novels?"  Part of the answer is by not doing a whole lot else.  I made a decision a while back not to follow TV shows, etc.  It frees up time.  And I realized I could get by on less than the amount of sleep your supposed to get.

But something disturbing happened as I found myself not writing during the late spring and the summer: I didn't go back to any of those other things.  I'd built lasting habits of not doing things that took up a clear hour or two of dedicated time.  What took up the time when I wasn't writing, wasn't exercising, wasn't doing home improvement projects, and wasn't sleeping were activities which I could somehow justify as not committing myself to doing something other than working.  

"I'll just check Facebook for a moment."

But while in theory social media could be checked for just a moment or two, I could also scroll down it for five or ten minutes.  And then do that again.  And again.  Since it didn't seem like actually committing to actually doing something other than what I still felt like I ought to be doing, it became the nothing that could soak up significant periods of time.

We were re-reading The Screwtape Letters recently, and this passage seemed very uncomfortably relevant:

 "You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, 'I now see that I spent most my life doing in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked."  C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Ch 12

In retrospect, I would have been better off binging on TV shows or light-weight novels than binging on nothing much.  It's a particularly dangerous set of habits for someone with an office job and a writing avocation.  So much I need to do and want to do is done sitting in front of a computer, and thus making a computer my my primary source of distraction is particularly destructive.

So here's to writing a quick blog post rather than scrolling down Facebook during lunch break, and trying to get a little bit better each day.


bearing said...

Not much to say to this other than yes, me too. This whole year has felt like waiting-room time: nothing to do except to leaf through one old magazine after another.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Oh, yeah -- that Screwtape quote has haunted me many a time. I'm also guilty of scrolling down the Facebook feed for far too long, and for the same reason.

Agnes said...

We all want our kids to learn to use computers/Internet/smart devices/social media responsibly, and just see how we adults, responsible and experienced in structuring our time, slip up so often! Oh yes, been there, done that (or rather, being there, doing that, struggling with it)!