“Georges Simenon,” Nassim Taleb observes in Antifragile, “only wrote sixty days a year, with three hundred days spent ‘doing nothing.’ He published more than two hundred novels.” In the same chapter, Taleb wrote:
[T]he great French poets Paul Claudel and Saint-John Perse and the novelist Stendhal were diplomats; a large segment of English writers were civil servants (Trollope was a post office worker); Kafka was employed by an insurance company. Best of all, Spinoza worked as a lens maker, which left his philosophy completely immune to any form of academic corruption.
This part of the book jumps around a bit, but his point seems fairly simple: write what you want, when you want. Don’t write to someone else’s standards or to please others. When you do that, you’re merely prostituting yourself. If you have a separate job, it doesn’t matter whether people like what you write, so a job, which most writers consider drudgery that saps time and energy away from their art, can actually be a liberating thing.
His point with Simenon is a bit more complex, but basically it relates to his belief that we should be terribly active or at leisure: sprint or stroll, study hard or sleep, peddle hard or glide (that’s how Arnold rides, I remember reading lately). Avoid jogging and TV. Load your life at the ends, with a narrow middle. Your life–activities, investments–ought to resemble a barbell.
My apologies for the humorless prose in this post. Humor comes to me best when I’m thoroughly acquainted with a subject. I’m still working my way through Taleb.