D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

The Need for Nothing

The greatest insult to a capitalist culture is to want for nothing. Sounds nice.

The past few weeks I’ve been embracing this idea of “nothing new.” I’ll write more on it later. The gist: where possible, I will acquire nothing new. Do without or buy secondhand.

But there’s another kind of nothingness in addition to absenting oneself from the consumption. Why not go further and remove bits of yourself from the production? In a culture that fetishizes productivity, produce less.

“Creative people need time to sit around and do nothing,” so goes the saying. Why not go further?

Creative people need time to sit around and do nothing.

You, me, that fella over there – nothing.

Do A and get B is a promise for failure. When people do things to somehow elevate their creativity, everything turns into a task that demands returns. Creativity has no returns.

Do more nothing. Or, if you prefer, do less of anything.

Some might liken this to meditation. Noble, but meditation nowadays comes loaded with intention. You aren’t meditating for nothing; you’re doing it for a reason. To find inner peace or to calm your mind – but never for the sake of doing not much at all.

Lately I’ve needed a nap most afternoons. I blame getting older. I blame the medications. For about 20 or 30 minutes I lay out on the bed. Some days I make it a coffee nap, other times I don’t get that far. Whenever I bring my phone with me I never feel rested. Because it’s not napping, it’s not nothing, it’s scrolling.

Fuckin’ scrolling.

Naps are key. In Dwight Garner’s The Upstairs Delicatessen, an entire section is dedicated to the literary merit of napping. I’ll have to get the exact quote from the library, but the gist is to treat naps like a second slumber with the author going so far as to undress completely, get under the covers and sleep for an hour or two. Then rise, shower and put on a totally new set of clothing. “It’s like getting two days out of one.”

Twenty minutes on top of the covers does it for me, but only if I leave the phone somewhere non damaging. In the summers I’ll take a half hour in the hammock. In the winter, I’ll crack the shades of the bedroom window to embrace the crispy light that comes through the bare trees.

Say what you will, even if you don’t sleep, you’ll get all kinds of ideas starting at a ceiling.

The goal, my goal, is to sit and do nothing without the intention of sitting and doing nothing. Let it be automatic, let it catch me off guard.