In Praise of Doing Nothing: My Life as a Creative Slacker

in life •  2 years ago

All the photos are my own

When people ask that inevitable social question "So, what do you DO?" I tell them that I have chosen to live the life of the Creative Slacker.

I can't take credit for thinking up that description, but in real terms, it means I have managed to create a lifestyle that allows me to do "this and that" (being self-employed) in order to make enough of a living that I don't have to be out in the world dealing with a so-called "real" job.

My past experience with working in the outside world has been that "JOB" is actually an acronym for "Just Over Broke," and I can accomplish that just as well from home, and not have to deal with commuting, office politics and the often self-involved mini dictators otherwise known as bosses.

For most people, there's a quantum leap between "being self-employed" and being a "creative slacker." 

In my case, it mostly has to do with ambition... or, rather, my general lack of same, which has plagued me since my youth. I was just never a very dynamic or assertive type of person, and I seldom felt motivated by the same things as my peers. In retrospect, I think one of the primary reasons I generally failed in workplaces in Korporate Amerika was that I lacked drive and a burning desire to succeed at something. Truth be known, I just wanted to "succeed" at being able to pay my bills and remain reasonably debt free. 

Once that was accomplished? Well, I'd just as well "do nothing." 

Of course, the Fine Art of Doing As Little As Possible actually requires some planning, at least if you don't want to end up living in a van, down by the river. Even when you're self-employed, it's easy to create-- and get caught in-- a rat race of your own making. 

That's why I have found it important to pause and "take inventory" of my life, now and then.

I recently determined that I spend far too much time on "all that other stuff" that has to get done before I can get around to doing the things I actually need to do. Which is really another way of saying I have too much on my plate... or perhaps that I have created a life situation that requires more "tending" than a single person can possibly hope to accomplish. So I am re-prioritizing.

Now, this may sound confusing... given that I keep referring to doing as little as possible, but the paradox of good Creative Slacking is precisely that I am willing to exert considerable effort in service of living a life that takes as little effort as possible.

Confusing, no?

Creative Slacking and the Importance of Priorities

Setting priorities-- and sticking to them-- is a very important part of Creative Slacking. 

In fact, instead of doing "busy work"-- like writing here-- I should be working like I did yesterday. Nothing got done yesterday, except for the listing of $700.00+ worth of new inventory on eBay. That is a genuine priority, because that actually holds at least the potential to pay bills. Answering people's comments on my blogs, writing casual articles like this one (even if it might earn a few dollars, on a good day) and writing in my journal do not help me buy groceries.

Over the years, I've come to realize that a lot of so-called "slackers"-- and I count myself among them-- actually have lots of energy, and aren't exactly "slackers," when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it. As I said, we slackers put a lot of energy and effort into figuring out how we can do as little as possible, and still get by!

The purpose of the hectic periods of activity is to build something substantial, fairly quickly, so I can spend the rest of my time working on my creative outlets, or writing articles and blog posts.

So what exactly IS this Creative Slacking, anyway? 

I've lived my life through a system I've come to call "patchwork economics," since 2001. It basically means I do a whole bunch of different things-- I write, create artsy/craftsy things, have a couple of eBay businesses, my wife and I have a small art gallery, we put on self-development workshops and a few other things. None of these-- alone--  can earn us a living (and we never thought they could), but when added together, we come out OK. 

It's not a lifestyle for everyone. If you're uptight about having control over your life, or "getting paid a certain amount" on a certain schedule... this life would kill you, or give you ulcers of anxiety. If you're attached to "having a career" it certainly wouldn't work, either. If making money (aka "working") is merely something you do in order to be ALIVE and enjoying life...? Then it may work.

Part of the mix, I confess, is that I'm a shameless opportunist. If an opportunity presents itself and I can use my prior knowledge, experience and skills to translate it into an income generating situation... I will. Even if it has little to do with my official work. 

For example, if I see some collectible trinket at the thrift store and know I can buy it for $3 and sell it on eBay for $100, I'll nab it. If someone is looking for someone to translate a document from Danish to English "for pay," I'll nab it. And so on, and so forth. 

It might not sound like much of a life for someone in their mid-50's, but it's ultimately a reflection of the fact that I have always placed "being happy" ahead of being successful, or being rich. In a sense it's also a response to the fact that I never felt happy when I was giving myself ulcers and a heart condition working 60-70 hours a week in the IT industry, just to collect a six figure income.

So there it is... my so-called (work) life!

How is your work life?

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I loved this article and I can relate to it in so many ways. We're about the same age and I've only been employed for a total of about 2 years. That doesn't mean I don't work but I try and do it on my own terms.

Well written, upvoted and followed!

@kus-knee (The Old Dog)

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@kus-knee, thanks! I guess I just prefer to chart my own course... even if it sometimes is a bit of a bumpy ride that makes little sense to some outside observers.

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It makes perfect sense to me! Looking forward to more of your "work" (articles).

Its your life you do what you have to as long as your happy. Good luck :)

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@karenb54, thanks-- and that's exactly the center of it all: I wanted to create a life that afforded me a measure of contentment.

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If it works for you then good luck to you, I could do with that sort of life, maybe after the mortgage and debts are cleared :)

What a GREAT post!! I am going to answer the awful what do you do question with creative slacker from now on! Bloody hilarious! And I agree and can relate totally to spending a lot of energy to do as little as possible :) but if you want to really live your life not just survive it I think it is the best way to go!

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@daisyd, thanks for commenting! The important thing (which many don't understand) is that this type of life does not mean that I live an eternal life of couch surfing on other people's dime; it just means I choose to not be bound by the limitations of conventional ideas of what "work," "career" and "success" look like.

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I understand 100% in fact I often have to remind myself that I chose this life so I could live - not so I could chase my tail from one project to the next, having many different pots on the go can easily become more stressful than a singular track - no matter how dull and soul destroying the latter may be. It's all about balance I guess :)

Very interesting way of working life, I like it ! Followed you to read more of your adventures ;)

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@lastminuteman, thanks for stopping by, and for the follow!