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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Project Nothing

I don't usually go for the "mainstream" books. You know, those books that are on EVERYONE's summer reading list, or the books that EVERYONE is OMGOSH freaking out about. I never read Harry Potter (dodges flying wands). I only read Twilight because my cousins forced me (love you anyway, guys!).

So it was with great hesitation that I bought Eat Pray Love. See, the movie looked fantastic...

It hooked me with one line: "You don't need a man. You need a champion."

And I pretty much knew I'd be breaking my resistance-to-all-things-mainstream-because-I'm-stubborn-and-HAVE-to-not-do-what-EVERYONE-ELSE-is-doing.

So I bought the book on iTunes and listened to the first, um, chunk (hard to tell what chapter I left on) on the way to visit some friends yesterday. I have never in my life wanted to spend an entire day driving, but yesterday, that was all I wanted. To drive and drive, and listen to Eat Pray Love until my gas tank ran dry. Because, dudes, this book is ART.

Elizabeth Gilbert is officially my writing icon -- I swear, the woman could describe concrete in such a way that would make readers groan and start gnawing on the sidewalk. As someone who can't eat most foods due to insane food allergies, listening to Liz Gilbert describe pizza in Italy and creamy pastries and PIZZA IN ITALY (and...there was one other thing...oh yeah. PIZZA. IN ITALY. *dies of desire*) was absolutely the cruelest form of punishment I've ever inflicted on myself. I actually broke down and made yeast-free pizza today, but alas, it fell so far short of Liz's that it can't even smell the wafting remains of her description.

I loved (am loving -- not done with it yet) this book for more reasons than her Food Network-like ability to use the words "luscious" and "savory" in such a way that your stomach actually says "WANT." She touched on a topic that I've been thinking about, well, my entire life.


Relaxation. Doing NOTHING. How the rest of the world seems perfectly able to just do NOTHING for hours upon hours, while Americans seem driven by this constant need to be doing SOMETHING. Even when we're on vacation. If we aren't being productive in some way, shape, or form, well, we'd better be sleeping. And even when we're sleeping, well, we'd better be REM-ing it up. And even when we're, REM-ing, well -- you get the picture.

I went with my family to North Carolina for a little getaway this year. The entire week we stayed there, though, drove me NUTS. All my family wanted to do was sit on the beach or by the pool or walk around gift shops. Halfway through the week, I started to analyze my overwhelming anxiety when I'd just sit by the pool. Why did I have to do something? Why did I have to finish the stack of books I'd brought? Why did I have to bring a notebook and chart story plots or character arcs? Why couldn't I just -- BREAK?

I've constantly been doing something. Every day. For the past almost-21-years. I've constantly been writing or trying to write or querying or trying to query or homeworking or schooling or reading or researching or organizing or SOMETHING that would benefit my ominous "future." Every day. For the past almost-21-years. People seem shocked to find out I have an agent so young, and have written novel(s), and have *insert achievement here*. But I'm not shocked. I've worked my a$$ off for everything I have. I just -- don't know how to NOT do it.

I don't know how to take a moment in time and do nothing. No reading or writing or worrying about reading or writing.

But if I don't read that stack of books, I won't know who everyone's talking about--

But if I don't write that story, someone else will get to the idea first--

But if I don't research jobs, I won't be prepared when I graduate--

But-- but-- but--

It's similar to what Liz Gilbert deals with in Eat Pray Love. She linked it back to our Puritan roots, a society that frowned upon "worldly" pleasures. Many of us, myself included, have some basis in that society/mindset. That we have to somehow "earn" our pleasure. That we aren't allowed to relax until we reach Goal A, or maybe after Goal B, no, wait, Goal C, we'll relax after Goal C--

It shocked me to find that there are other cultures (namely, Italian) who would scoff at the idea of "earning" pleasure. Our ads that proclaim "Use Product X! You're worth it!" would make them go "Um...duh," while it makes us go "Yes...I am worth it! Yes!"

And that's SAD.

So I've decided that for the entire month of August, my last full month before my last quarter of college, I am going to do NOTHING. I'm not going to worry about writing. I'm not going to worry about reading. I'm only going to do things when they seem like terrifically fun ideas, not because I feel guilty. I'm going to sit for long periods of time doing nothing. Nothing will be the theme of my month. Nothing, Nothing, sweet and glorious and maddening Nothing.

If anyone would like to join me, they are more than welcome. I know I could certainly use a Nothing Accountability Partner.

This is going to be interesting.


Nikki said...

1) Okay, fine, I'll buy the darn book. I've stayed away from it because I kept hearing how great it was and I couldn't imagine it living up to the hype, but I'll get it. How's the audio version? Good reader? Maybe I'll put it on my iPod for the flight over...

2) That's EXACTLY how I feel about Korea right now. Every single second of my existence for the next three weeks is booked, and I'm looking forward so much to being in a country where I don't have any friends, any obligations, or any knowledge of the language. I'm going to learn how to do nothing... and I'm so excited.

Hayley Lovell said...

I wish I could, really honestly and one day I will, but until then I've got stuff to do. I mean if I could quit my job, and just get into college by waving my hand then I'd do it in a heartbeat. Especially cause the job = not working out. But I still don't know where I want to go so...well I can't do nothing. But I want to, so bad Sara, so bad.

Adam Heine said...

So. Awesome.

Kathryn Rose said...

I liked "Eat Pray Love" until I got to "Love". I thought the first two parts were inspiring and enlightening, but the third was a little romantic comedy-ish for my taste. Still a great book though! Hope you're enjoying it! And sorry about the pizza thing...


I loved this book! it really opens your eyes to life.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I loved Eat, Pray, Love. I've been in such a whirlwind of Must-Accomplish-Everything-Today-Cannot-Rest for the past eight months that I've realized I need to take time to relax.

In fact, the book inspired our last-minute vacation to Greece. We were going to go to Italy, but decided on Crete instead.

erin f. danehy said...

I don't know if I could read Eat, Pray, Love. Maybe it's also the food allergy issue (celiac here! gluten = pain *cry*) or the fact that it's so popular... grah. I feel compelled to read the big trends in YA because I write YA but I haven't been shoved forcibly in front of this book yet by one of my pushy and demanding friends so I will probably wait until that happens.

Or, you know, just see the Julia Roberts movie. >.>

But you're so right: there's this obvious and unavoidable pressure to be productive, even on vacations. If it wasn't for my husband's philosophy, I would have ruined every vacation we've been on. He believes one should stroll around and absorb a place, sit in a cafe with a cappuccino, in Italy, or a pain au chocolat in Paris, and just BE. It's so ZEN! And you know what? Those days remain the happiest of those trips.

ENJOY this month! :D

K. M. Walton said...

My cousin just brought me that book yesterday. I'll give it a go, as soon as I finish To Kill a Mockingbird. Yeah, I know, how couldn't I have ever read it?! I started it two night ago and I'm nearly done - it's that good.

Enjoy the month of nothing.

Dara said...

Haven't read the book yet but our book club is going to be reading it in November. I tend to avoid the mainstream books too; I just recently finished all the Harry Potter books. I listened to 6 of the 7 in the car on various 6 hour driving trips to West Virginia.

I would join you in this venture BUT I've been doing nothing for the majority of the summer, so I probably need to focus.

But how I long for an entire year of just traveling the world. Too bad I don't have that luxury--nor does anyone else I know...

Maybe someday.

Steph Schmidt said...

Nothing sounds awesome. Can nothing include lots of time in a hammock? I wont/can't read Eat Pray Love, or any book that will make me hungry, because The Diet is only working since I've been reading instead of snacking.

Jill Wheeler said...

I'd been side-eyeing this book since all the Oprah hubbub, but maybe I'll have to check it out!

Enjoy your month off!

Tahereh said...


hehe. thanks for the rec!