Lichtenbergianism: the competition

Highly recommended.

Part of getting your book published is making sure that someone else hasn’t already beaten you to the market.  Today’s candidate is The Art of Procrastination: a guide to effective dawdling, lollygagging and postponing, by professor of philosophy John Perry.

If you squint at the subtitle, you can see an asterisk, which footnotes to the text under the path of the paper airplane.  It says, *or getting things done by putting them off.


You can understand my trepidation when I discovered this book, which only increased when reviews mentioned its wit and charm.  Is this the book I thought I was writing?

It arrived yesterday, and it’s quite a slim little volume—fewer than 100 pages, generously spaced—and therefore shorter than I think Lichtenbergianism is meant to be.  Quite readable in one sitting, which I sat down to do.

It is indeed witty and charming, delightfully written, and the basic premise is precisely the heart of TASK AVOIDANCE, the first Precept of Lichtenbergianism. “Structured procrastination,” as Dr. Perry has named it, is exactly what has led to the productivity of the Lichtenbergians: put off one project by working on another. As I say in the chapter on TASK AVOIDANCE,

This very book (at least at the time of writing this sentence) is being written to avoid the pain of writing music.[1] Not only that, but in the process of writing every section of this book, every other section proved a suitable distraction. Stuck on the AUDIENCE chapter? Jot down that note in your head on GESTALT that has been doing its best to distract you.

So has John Perry beaten me to the market?  No, thank goodness.  His book is perfect, but it is not an overview of the creative process, nor does it fulfill Lichtenbergianism‘s goal of giving the Citizen Artist permission to free him/herself of the fear to create.


It does mean I will have to rewrite Chapter Three: TASK AVOIDANCE to reference Dr. Perry’s ideas, and I really would love to get a blurb from him for the book.  (More emailing to be done…)  But although he is (like I am) humorously letting procrastinators off the hook instead of browbeating them to STOP IT like all the other books on procrastination are doing, we are not competing for the same market.

This book, however, concerns me.  I’ll report on it after it arrives.


[1] The opera Seven Dreams of Falling, which Scott and I are going to work on again soon.  Ish.

2 thoughts on “Lichtenbergianism: the competition

  1. I encourage you to appreciate that your book is unique, in part, because of its tone. You are not after charming philosophical distillation, nor are you aping Og Mandino. There is a delicious narrative specificity threading through these principles of Lichtenbergianism, as well as a celebration of the multifoliate power found in an assemblage of odd and surprising bits of cultural history and discourse. The figure of Lichtenberg as the most obvious example along with his surreal aphoristic efforts But also, for instance, I hope you have a place for “corroborative evidence.” Or the ironic richness of toasting one’s “efforts.” Etc.

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