I haven’t blogged in a month.
Which is ironic, or lazy, or lazily ironic or ironically lazy, I’m not sure which. I issued what amounted to a cultural fatwa, urging writers to inspire the world with their musings, and then I went into a huddle with myself and did nothing.
To put it bluntly, the last time I blogged, I was wrong. And I could not be prouder of myself.
I’m so proud that I’m not doing any writing, and nor am I improving myself in any way. I’m not exclusively sitting on my arse, either, but I am certainly not bettering myself. And I have to say, it’s the best thing I’ve ever (or never) done.
Not that I’m not hugely impressed by all those folks who have taken up lockdown challenges to achieve enlightenment by next Thursday and running marathons or cycling Tour de Frances in their 8×8 backyards in Chester: I am, sort of. I think it’s admirable that people have taken up trombone juggling and writing operas about virtual reality helicopters. And I think it’s a great idea if people want to spend the next month learning how to sing Nessun Dorma in Mandarin sign language whilst losing weight by leaping from ceiling pendant light to wall hanging.
I just think they should stop banging on about it, and I invite people to join my Do-Nothing Lockdown Manifesto instead.
The New Social Media Bullies
Resist the perpetual Instagrammers who want you to think that their locked down life is the best locked down life.
Ignore the incessant TikTokkers who have rustled up a gourmet meal families will love with two fava beans and some out-of-date cider vinegar.
Say sayonara to the unflappable Facebookers who feel they need to tell you that your child will never be bored again if only you spend thirty minutes per day ramming mindfulness into their confused little curly heads.
Blank the Twitterers who tell you that they once wrote a Nobel-worthy novel whilst in full plastercast after a horrific outdoors Zumba accident, so if you don’t have yours written by the May bank holiday, you’re just a bit shit really.
And most definitely shut your eyes to the WhatsAppers who ask you to join their challenge to find perfect happiness by reading the most bonkers and ridiculous conspiracy theories the world has ever seen and forwarding them to 598 of your closest friends as a proxy for proper social contact.
For Once: A Manifesto Which Has Already Been Tested! (You’re Welcome)
Day to day – and especially over Easter when I had the last 4 days off – I have done nothing I could say I have ever aspired to, and in doing so, I have achieved what can only be described as the most smugly content state of being I have ever experienced.
In order to achieve this social media Nirvana, I didn’t buy anything or take up anything new. I didn’t learn anything or change anything. Instead, when not working, I’ve been exclusively cooking, cleaning, clearing, sorting, eating, watching TV, reading, drinking good wine, video calling my friends (often whilst drinking good wine), and sleeping. In terms of memorable achievements, I can therefore safely classify this as a whole lot of Nothing.
I acknowledge that I am uniquely placed to enjoy a lot of this stuff, so I’m not saying this is for everyone. But bits of the Do-Nothing Manifesto are at least appropriate for many.
The cooking feels nice because I never have time otherwise to do so. That means it’s technically a novelty for me, because I haven’t spent the last 10 years trying to think of what people will eat and getting complaints for my trouble. But it does feel good. Sometimes I use what’s been lying around in the freezer and cupboards for far too long. Mostly I don’t. I mean really, who the hell cares?
The cleaning feels good because I’m locked down in my family home in the west of Ireland, which has needed a bit of love since my Dad passed away last April. I have more space here to work, read and goggle at screens and birds, and I’m earning this good fortune by scrubbing every last inch of it so it looks like it used to when he used to be here.
The clearing and sorting is another Job-Hanging-Over-Your-Head thing which is like cleaning your mind out at the same time. I would stress that this is not a Marie Kondo thing. This is purely an old-fashioned spring clean, and I won’t have it associated with any online self-help directives. But when somebody dies, sorting through stuff can either be the worst thing for you (if you do it when you’re not ready) or the best thing (if you’re ready and have the time). Me, I am finally ready and I have the time.
The eating, drinking, watching TV, reading and sleeping things are self-explanatory. But all that precious downtime would be ruined if I was going around worrying about not writing the novel or the blog or submitting novels to agents who are now drowning in manuscripts or queries for books which haven’t even been written yet.
It’s All Work-Life Balance Really
I have to caveat all this by saying I’m lucky enough to still have a job I can do from home, which means that my Monday to Friday 9-5s are pretty much taken up with normal life, minus the commute, the salads, the face-to-face wheedling and the office banter. Which is an excuse in itself, but some people would think that all that saved commuting time should be spent doing something amazing.
And I am. I’m staring at birds, thinking about what to have for dinner, and wondering whether I should go to bed with a book or Netflix. I can’t think of a better way of doing nothing, and I can only recommend it.
You now have the ultimate freedom to Do Nothing, folks. It’s the best way I know of preparing ourselves for the lives ahead of us.
And unlike learning Swahili, writing the next Booker or losing 10 stone, we may never have the chance to Do Nothing again.