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Kafka: the Procrastinator


Today’s note from Cindy …

Today I learned via the brilliant outlet, Slate, that Franz Kafka was a procrastinator, like the rest of us.  Its funny how much these little realizations can humanize legendary writers.  (I took a three hour nap after work the other day myself, when I should have undoubtedly been writing.)

I’m not sure the lesson here is that if Kafka can get away with it, so can we…but perhaps next time, don’t beat yourself up so much and feel so guilty about living a little.  Grab that lunch at Whole Foods Cafe.

Franz Kafka is a good example. In 1908, Kafka landed a position at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute in Prague, where he was fortunate to be on the coveted “single shift” system, which meant office hours from 8 or 9 in the morning until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. This was a distinct improvement over his previous job, which required long hours and frequent overtime. So how did Kafka use these newfound hours of freedom? First, lunch; then a four-hour-long nap; then 10 minutes of exercise; then a walk; then dinner with his family; and then, finally, at 10:30 or 11:30 at night, a few hours of writing—although much of this time was spent writing letters or diary entries.

In his letters, Kafka complained that his day job was holding him back, but as Louis Begley argues in his excellent biographical essay on Kafka, this was really just an excuse. Begley writes, “It is rare that writers of fiction sit behind their desks, actually writing, for more than a few hours a day. Had Kafka been able to use his time efficiently, the work schedule at the Institute would have left him with enough free time for writing. As he recognized, the truth was that he wasted time.

More on Mason Currey’s article here.

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