Last week a new acquaintance displayed mild astonishment at the volume of my writing. He asked me how I come up with ideas for my pieces. I had to pause to think about that since my process has become more of a reflex that anything else.
My answer was that I have the luxury of time. Despite the heightened pace of my life since moving to Washington, D.C., I continue to leave many hours unscheduled so that I can read, think and write.
I am reminded of Bertrand Russell's 1932 essay entitled "In Praise of Idleness" which critiqued the modern obsession with labor in the age of the machine and with production as an end in itself.
Much of the work in wealthy countries now, however, is in the service industries. Service jobs have always been around, but not as much as they are today. Yet strangely, in an age where a smaller and smaller proportion of the population produces the actual physical objects of life—work that in the past has been associated with long hours of physical labor and repetitive drudgery—many of those engaged in the professions, managerial work, and other white-collar jobs have seen their workday expand almost without limit. We receive emails from workplace colleagues and clients at all hours, sometimes with tasks that must be performed immediately. A dinner with a lawyer friend last week was interrupted by an email from a client who needed a memo that evening for the next morning.