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Julien Baker’s ‘Doing Nothing’ Op-Ed Describes The Creative Virtue Of Idleness


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Julien Baker is no stranger to eloquent statements about the realities of our world, whether through an interview or just through her heart-swelling music and live performances. Now, she has put some of these words to paper in a new op-ed for Oxford American, a quarterly literary magazine featuring Southern writers discussing living in that American region.

Titled “Doing Nothing,” the truly beautiful op-ed discusses at length the life of a touring musician traveling for weeks on end, and the need to turn idleness into bouts of inspiration and creativity. Here’s a few clips from the piece:


On road-fueled creativity:

Being a touring musician is mostly travel; in between the minutes of performance stretch weeks of time spent in transit, on to the next show in the next town as a View-Master slideshow of gas stations whips by. That forced idleness creates so much time to Do Nothing: to say nothing, to sit and think, observe and digest. In fact, having nothing to do for long enough makes you realize that Doing Nothing is actually a fruitful activity.

On the creative virtue of doing nothing:

Lack and need cultivate the power to imbue existing objects with new function and meaning. In the absence of the real thing, we invent solutions where unusual things take on new potential. The mental alchemy of childhood that turns snapped branches into daggers becomes the ability to transform a fire escape into a dryer, cinder blocks and plywood into a bed. Imagination gives us the optimism to uncover usefulness in what is otherwise discarded as the ugly or insignificant… This capability to discover extraordinary significance in the common is exercised in scarcity of stimulation. To glean knowledge from our experience we need time to be educated through humble observation. If we are always keeping silence and stillness at bay, we can never find those things embedded in our world, we drown them out.

Check out the gorgeous full op-ed here. Baker’s incredible sophomore album Turn Out The Lights is out now on Matador Records.

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