Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

MAY 31, 2010 6:24PM

Doing Stuff is Overrated

Rate: 96 Flag


“Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear and not bothering.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

I like doing nothing. Sometimes its frowned upon and I’m not sure why. Doing nothing is relaxing, fun and easy.

Doing stuff, on the other hand, is overrated:

1. It’s tiring.
2. It doesn’t usually amount to much.
3. It usually leads to the doing of more stuff.
4. It often requires a needless, overpriced gym membership.
5. We’re all going to be maggot food anyway.

Back in the day, people sat around in rocking chairs on their porches and drank lemonade all afternoon. They were totally down with doing nothing. People took "Sunday drives" and the term "lazy afternoon" was invented. Time went by more slowly so days lasted about twice as long.

Even further back, people sat around naked in the forest, doing nothing. Sure, they hunted for food and foraged and stuff. But that was just so they could eat their meat and berries and get back to sitting in a circle, doing nothing, naked.

Now, we’re like manic little gerbils on electrified running wheels. I say the madness must end.

Cavemen, keeping it simple.

There was a time I too thought doing things mattered. I did things for decade upon decade - for other people, for money, to feel accomplished. Then one day I said to self, “What the fuck am I doing?”

So I just stopped and have felt happier since…well, not really. But I’d rather be unhappy doing nothing than doing a lot of something. Then I’m unhappy and tired on top of it.

I prefer doing nothing alone but sometimes I do nothing with other people. If we have to do something, we get a little annoyed. But we do it anyway, so we can get back to doing nothing again...together.

Guess what I'm doing?

Sleep is a good example of doing nothing and is by far the most interesting part of the day. You never know what’s going to happen, who you’re going to meet and what magical powers you may possess. I like to think of my waking hours as a 16-hour preparation for going back to sleep.

People do stuff to succeed, to be somebody. They strive for money, recognition, stature, attention. But they’re still unhappily married or wax nostalgic about days when they were broke and happier or have some weird closeted fetish that consumes all their time or they shoplift earrings at Nordstrom’s.

At this point, I consider it a success if I make it through the day. That’s not intended to sound fatalistic but life is a contentious bitch and you know it. People are dumb and mean you’re always working for the man on some level, relationships usually end (come on…they do. Really. And they usually end badly, to boot.) And we haven’t even gotten to diseases yet. I say give yourself a pat on the back if you’re not shooting smack or buying sturdy rope.

Doing stuff opens you up to all sorts of dangers as well. Once I was riding my bike around the neighborhood, trying to do something, when a big, black Kujo dog ran out and leapt up on me. His slobbery jaws were inches away from my face. I could be noseless as I type these words. I’m not – but I could be. Shit happens all the time.








Goodbye, nose.

And stuff just falls from the sky. A substantial number of people have died from pianos falling on top of them; it’s not just in the movies. You’re better off inside, safe, resting, prepping for sleep, where the real action happens.

Hello, piano.

Historically speaking, busy people have been nothing but trouble: Hitler, Mussolini, Vlad the Impaler (pictured below.) Say what you will about them but they were all on the go. Same with serial killers; busy people with a serious agenda. Buddha, Lassie and Robin Leach? Not so concerned about grabbing the brass ring and look at their level of contentment.



Vlad, getting busy.

Now, I’m not advocating doing absolutely nothing all the time. I’m asking we redefine doing stuff and bring it down a fucking notch, for God’s sake. Really. What are we trying to prove? That we’re winners in the game of life? Well, let me polish up that trophy for you. Do you want it engraved?

"Congratulations, you did stuff! Now you’re in an urn on a mantelpiece. Not so busy anymore, are you, hotshot?"

Once I stripped a dresser of all of its old paint. Some may consider that a small accomplishment but it remains one of my life’s crowning achievements. I’ll never forget the deep sense of completion I felt when it was finally done. I felt blissfully lost in time, fully alive and technically, not doing a whole lot in the bigger scheme of things. Yet it still beat out some more seemingly relevant moments in my life, like graduating college or winning a contest or watching my baby being born. (I don’t have a baby, but points need to be made.)

So the next time you want to do something, stop. Ask yourself, “Is this really worth it?” Or better yet, “Am I still going to die even though I did this?” The answer will probably be yes (unless doing stuff includes creating an immortality potion. If so, kudos for you, smartie.)

If death is in your future, you may want to consider doing nothing, as a form of preparation. Eternity is a long, long time and you don’t want to tire out too early.


“I don't understand people who like to work and talk about it like it was some sort of goddamn duty. Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.” ~ Ava Gardner

Ava Gardner, getting her wish

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doing nothing is akin to doing something without the nothing... and loving it!
God, I love doing nothing. I've had the most lovely afternoon. Thanks for sticking up for not-doing, Beth.
You must have seen me doing nothing today..._r
I am the self confessed QUEEN OF DOING NOTHING and i work very hard at it.
I LOVE doing nothing, now if I could quit feeling guilty for doing nothing! I am stopping today, no more guilt, no more guilt, no more guilt...
You're singing my song, sister!
What I love about OS is that I get to do nothing on American holidays as well as Canadian holidays.

I'm not against doing stuff. I just don't think it should be the only thing, or even the most important thing. If you can't chill, or just be, you're not really living.
Wonderful! I have done absolutely nothing today and I must admit I had a couple times where I thougt, "Maybe I should do something." and then I thought, "fuck it."
I just have a problem with the word "doing."
Remove that...and I am game!!!
Hey, thanks for writing this for me. I thought about doing it... then I thought better of it. Good use of time.
Beth, I hate to break this to you but by doing this amusing, no hilarious post , on the Zen of doing nothing,you fucked up by doing something. Quite the paradox. Now, get back busy doing nothing. Loved the second picture, by the way. This was a masterpiece. One question for clarification. If one plans on doing nothing is that not really doing something by carrying out the plan?
You could have mentioned this before I spent the last month going to the gym every day.
Oh I love how funny you are. I was going to ask (Dr spud kind of went there) Is being on OS for the 4 FREAKIN days that I had off work this that doing nothing?
hey! i peeled and cut up a WHOLE BOWL of peaches, and i feel like a freaking WONDER WOMAN! now, i can take that nap. sweet shot, really. :o)
So Beth, you just laid out on the grass, no blanket, no nothing? wow you are the Mistress of do nothing, "no I don't even need to go to the closet and get a towel, I will do nothing but lay face down in the green earth" I love doing nothing in my house alone, where no one can make me stop.. or break my doing nothing with something. TY
I'm staying indoors to reduce my chances of being killed by a piano.
One chair under the chinaberry tree, a light breeze, and ducks on the lake. I have a skill and a gift for doing nothing. I think that's why I am still alive...
Oh my gosh--the Sunday Drive. How could I have forgotten those hot days being shoved beside my seven siblings in the back seat of a small station wagon for a drive "in the country"? Interminable.
Partly cloudy with a chance of pianos...scary indeed! I need to go sleep and drift away to the world wherein I can fly and vaporize irritating people with a stare. (I think I started dreaming about that after Cranky posted his tazer bit.)
Wonderfully whimsical wandering...without any guilt or calories. Merci again, m'dear!!!
Ah, I came feeling guilty and leave renewed.

*leaves to finish doing nothing... with head held a bit higher

'life is a contentious bitch and you know it."
This is SO funny but I am sure you are somewhat serious. No one has any idea just how to BE. Just BE, alone, with people, just HANG. We're all so busy DOING STUFF that we are all completely crazy. I loved this post. hysterically true and very very pithy and funny. rrrrrrrrr
My bucket list contains a whole lotta nothing.
thank GAWD. now i don't have to feel guilty for feeling this way 'cuz you said it first. whoa. that's a burden off my conscience. but at least i don't have to do anything except thank you for being so brave, you lazy girl.
This is the Seinfeld show of posts.
"Once I stripped a dresser of all of its old paint. Some may consider that a small accomplishment but it remains one of my life’s crowning achievements."

As that old commercial said, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful... " Instead, hate me because not only did I finish virtually every piece of furniture in our bedroom and living room, I built it first."

Sorry, dear. some of us gots it and somes of us don't *preens*
(hey, why do you think dykes wear tool belts? ;-) )
Get out of my head, woman! Seriously, It's like we are living a duel existence (I've never had a baby, either). I'm just now getting around to the college thing. You're light-years ahead of me in that department. No point in rushing things, ya know.
Love your slacker attitude. I have to admire that.
Very clever piece of writing, Beth. But then, I've come to expect that of you. Keep up the good work. Or don't. Doing nothing is cool, too.
I would like to comment on this excellent piece, but I agree with the importance of doing nothing........................................Hic!...excuse me, I alway get the hicups when I drink soft drinks, or slam tequila...but, you know, I lied about the hiccup because going out and getting tequila and soft drinks would require my doing something.

Looking at my watch, I now see reading this piece has made me late for my nap, but that's realy OK...naps are not the same as sleeping....I think I'll just sit here.....
The quote about the warm water was great, as was the rest. I remember not long before THE WORST TIME OF MY LIFE, I lived near a pool. During warm spring and summer nights, I would just float there, looking up at the stars. Once I fell asleep briefly, floating. It made me wonder if that is what it's like before you're born (though some say that the sounds of the mother's heart pumping are sort of like a washing machine, they think). To me, it was a bit of heaven on Earth.
Lots of people are just running on a treadmill.
very funny and pitch perfect :D
is that a person those cavemen are eating?
I think that the experience of Heaven must be alot like "doing nothing." I have also floated in a warm lake, on a clear afternoon, on my back, not a ripple, or a sound, just flesh between water and sky...It was like Paradise...nothing more need be done....
I am so with you... and yet, now that I've forsaken television, I find myself doing too much stuff. Maybe I'll do nothing for a while except figure out what I do want on my urn.
I am the Queen of doing nothing, and all of my friends scurry from place to place, agendas to follow and just don't understand how I love being alone, doing nothing. They're all fools.
Hate to be a party pooper, but being a high anxiety type I find doing stuff comforting. And "doing nothing" the most difficult thing of all. Maybe that's cause I spent 20 years in a spiritual cult, a lot of it sitting on a cushion doing nothing, which as anyone who's meditated will tell you mostly consists of doing everything in your head.
I am doing nothing but watching the Flyers do something they could get a trophy for and everything. Then I'd do something... I'd yell myself hoarse. Otherwise, I'm witchoo, Sistah.
I thought you were channeling me in the beginning ....

I have conquered the fear of nothing, and I have conquered the guilt of nothing. And I expect nothing in return :-)
Beth, this post came at the perfect time. I was feeling weepy and worthless for doing NOTHING all day. You made me laugh! Do you understand how important that is? YOU MADE ME LAUGH! Thank you. This is great.
I am with you, Beth. I am a master at doing nothing, and doing it very well. Great Post.
'Nothing' is my absolute favorite thing to do!
Winnie the Pooh is my hero.
I love this post. Doing nothing is greatly underrated.
All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.
Blaise Pascal
Here's to sitting around in a circle naked, eating meat and berries, and scratching each others itches!
And I vote for counting OS as time well spent doing nothing!!!
Plus Karaoke.
doing nothing is often what i do best ty for this R.
Nothing, nothing, nothing. Makes a great mantra, doesn't it.
Great post. I saw Holiday Inn at an impressionable age and loved the idea of a place that was open only a dozen or so days a year with most of the rest being prolonged weekends.

One of the things I like best about spending time at my cottage is that the only big decisions are what will we do for brunch and dinner. Much of the day is spent wallowing.
ah. the art of doing nothing. a skill I am trying to perfect on the beach this summer. love the ava quote.
Couldn't agree more and I love the way you say it. Kudos--not Kujos.
Great post. Thanks. I agree. I am thoroughly enjoying unemployment. You can view Good Things about Unemployment at or some of them are posted, along with a lot of lovely wildflowers you can view while you are doing nothing here at unemployedmarx.
Yeah.....but I still have to go to work today.
Lovely, impassioned piece although I suspect you had to DO it. You must be exhausted. Reminds me of something I learnt, got it from Stephen Levine: Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no-one to be. He might have said it in a different order, can be switched around, and I haven' t exactly learnt it yet. Still studying.
I'm down with nothing. I excel at nothing.
Work has been extremely slow lately. When my husband comes home and asks for the umpteenth time, "What do you DO all day?" my answer, "Nothing" has taken on a whole new meaning. Thanks. -r
I can dig it! Also, every time I do "something" it costs money and is bad for the environment.
Years ago, a friend once said to me, in exasperation: We're human beings, not human doings!

Sage words, Ms. Mann. Sage words, indeed.

But where would the machine be without us cogs?
I need to read this every day.
Well this is just about the best OS post ever. I love this with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. If only i had written this I could retire and do nothing but laze in my pool. Heck I could afford a pool to laze in, finally.

This: "Sleep is a good example of doing nothing and is by far the most interesting part of the day. You never know what’s going to happen, who you’re going to meet and what magical powers you may possess. I like to think of my waking hours as a 16-hour preparation for going back to sleep."

But I do a dis-service to the piece by extracting one upstrangequark from it. The whole hilarious thing is exactly done, not one character less or more. And the sad and awful and hysterical thing is: it's all TRUE.

I am on a mission to read all my favorites. I have found rewards along the way, everywhere. But this, this, Beth, is a Golden Ticket.

Hey, actually, one quibble: Lassie was a big help every time little Sally Jean fell into the well. But that's cause he marshaled his resources and panted ahead.
No argument from me.
a dilemma -- I can't ratify your brilliant insights without doing something, ie, writing a comment and clicking the rate button, damn, two things, it just keeps snowballing
In your honor, I'm taking the rest of the day off. If anyone asks, cover for me, OK?
I love this post. I did nothing yesterday and was bad at it. Today I'm doing nothing and will do a good job of doing nothing.
It's important to dress properly for doing nothing. I find wearing nothing is best, when you're doing nothing.
I love this! I always feel like I should be doing something, but WHY? I love doing nothing!
There was once a Know-Nothing Party. A Do-Nothing Party would have instant appeal.

nice piece--r
I really am the queen of doing nothing unless I have to, and I try to make sure I don't. This includes not knowing how to work cell phones, i-pods and Wii.
Thank you for the confirmation of my now excellent status in life. Typing is exhausting.
Hmmm, I was doing nothing at work until I read this post....well I may as well rate it now.
I like the way you think.
I'd hold a gold medal in doing nothing if only I didn't have to actually, you know. Get up off my duff and walk to the place where they give out gold medals.

Wow, people are developing sanity all over the place. Sparks of hope are everywhere. I burn very little gas laying around in my yard. I want to do nothing for the environment too. Yay. I think I'll go lay on the lounger outside for a while.
I'd write to tell you how fabulous this blog post is but I'm too busy doing nothing..............

People are so busy doing that they forget how to BE.
You say it so well...Rated
There! Rated. Wonderful article. Now I'm going back to doing nothing...
It takes real commitment to learn how to enjoy doing nothing. And a total lack of neuroses. I have finally mastered the required techniques.
I'm all for relaxation and simplicity, it's just that pesky question since doing nothing can add up. How to pay the bills ??
Love Gardner's quote. Hope to be that rich - to emulate someday ;)
Always did like Ava. Now I like her even more. I am so down with doing nothing I can't even tell you. I do nothing on the hoof...just wander around the house. I don't dust, straighten pictures, or pick up lint. Yeah. I'm a lazy bitch.
Dolce far niente is how the Italians put it. It's sweet to do nothing. It just wasn't much encouraged when I was growing up. Now and then "doing stuff" is unavoidable. And sometimes, I have to clean house or plant something or go crazy. But I took a two hour nap yesterday afternoon without causing the earth to reverse on its axis. And it felt excellent. =o)
This post just might inspire the IOC to develop "doing nothing" as an Olympic sport.
Beth, I absolutely love this!!! You are so right, hysterical, funny, smart. I was at a dinner party recently where people were going on and on about their busy and important lives, no time for this or that, and I just sat there and said, "I love watching Real Housewives of NYC and doing nothing." I didn't get too much attention after that, and it was just fine with me. I'm saving this much wisdom in it. Really.
I'm not alone in this must be doing something all the time the sun never sets and the internet never closes so you have no excuse world.

Doing is so highly overrated.
"life is a contentious bitch and you know it"

You are a brilliant woman. Let's take a nap.
My attitude is until one comes up with something brilliant - something truly, meaningfully important to do - you're better off doing nothing. Otherwise you're just paving the road to hell, and there's no more room on that chain gang anyway.
I love the whole post, but my favorite line is: "I like to think of my waking hours as a 16-hour preparation for going back to sleep."

I never knew anyone felt this way but me! Love it.
I feel a great sense of relief reading your piece, especially after all the days of my life I've wasted watching Lost.
Is surfing nothing? HA! Steve: 1, Beth: o

(well, that's right next to nothing)