An Idler's Life

Katie Renz

Ten a.m. is for sleeping in, three in the afternoon for a nap (waking fresh for teatime). Then a rambling stroll followed by the first drink of the day. Ten in the evening: pints at the pub; a midnight contemplation of the celestial sphere; meditation at four in the morning.

Who the hell lives like this?

Tom Hodgkinson, for one. His book, How to be Idle, just out in the United States, is a treatise on living a life of leisure and should be required reading for the Western world's workaholics -- and especially for Americans, who with their collective 415 million unused vacation days last year and pathetic 53 percent job dissatisfaction rates could evidently use some edifying pointers on successful loafing.

In his early 20s, Hodgkinson was becoming "massively disappointed" with the world of work post-graduation. "At the University I was more or less the master of my own time," he said, reminiscing about his days publishing magazines, playing in bands, and attending great lectures. "But I started to question this whole idea of jobs because it was taking away my freedom." He intended to become a freelance writer (both his parents were journalists), but was chronically unable to get out of bed. "I wasn't doing it with any pleasure, I was feeling really pissed off at myself," he recalled. In the midst of this guilty inaction he found a series of essays by Samuel Johnson on the virtues of kicking back and the vital link between idleness and creativity. As he told a British interviewer, "I suddenly realised, hey, I'm not a lazy idiot, I'm an idler! It's something to aspire to, it's part of the creative process! That's fantastic!"