Free spirits, those who live by knowledge alone, will soon attain the supreme aim of their life and their ultimate position towards society and State, and will gladly content themselves, for instance, with a small post or an income that is just sufficient to enable them to live… He, too, knows the weekdays of restraint, of dependence and servitude. But from time to time there must dawn for him a Sunday of liberty, otherwise he could not endure life… In his mode of life and thought there is a refined heroism, which disdains to offer itself to the veneration of the masses, as its coarser brother does, and tends to go silently through and out of the world.
You know, I believe I will incorporate this beautiful passage into my ongoing project to redefine slackerhood.
In one of my jobs, I get paid to write. It only makes me a little money right now, and it’s only corporate copyspeak, but I’m okay with it. That kind of writing is sort of like a math problem— how to achieve a desired result within strict limits by using purely grammatical skills. It occupies my attention for as long as it takes to do the job, and then it’s easily forgotten. I have other writer friends who find that sort of work soul-crushing. They envisioned themselves writing important novels; all they can think about while churning out press releases and newsletter content is that they must have failed somewhere along the way, and they resent every minute of it.
Maybe the difference is that I’ve never subscribed to the idea that your work should be life-affirming, a distillation of all that makes your heart sing. Punch the clock, do what you must to earn enough to get by, and leave it all behind when you’re done for the day. I like the idea of being able to use my skills in a detached, cerebral way for mercenary reasons, while reserving a private space for the kind of writing that gives me joy, and never the twain shall meet.
A friend of mine is a fan of my writing, and he wonders why I don’t use my blogging more ambitiously. Why don’t I try to network, be seen around the scene, strive for more readers, put out a tip jar and maybe make some money at this? Because I am congenitally incapable of being comfortable in crowds, whether in a room or in a comment section. Because I don’t want to be widely read or appreciated. Because I don’t want transactional relationships, obligations and expectations getting mixed up in what is a purely selfish labor of love. Because, like Auden said, we are changed by what we change, and I already know when I’m happy.