How to do Nothing, Jenny Odell


February 2023

I pitched a few pieces on this when it came out several years ago but got nothing commissioned, so I only got round to listening to it as a precursor to Odell’s new book, Saving Time - which I again pitched but this time was commissioned.

How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy is an artistic and creative response to the demands of late-stage capitalism and the digital world on our lives. On our brains, our bodies, our safety and our sanity. We all know it’s too much, whatever it is - too much scrolling, too much selling, too much being in touch with work or with greedy groups of incessant instant messagers…

Can we just give up and check out? Odell considers previous attempts at dropping out of society to create a utopia elsewhere, showing they have all failed. Instead she tries to illustrate ways in which we can make our rebellions personal and intimate, be they switching off, not buying, listening to our natural surroundings - building a world outside the consumerist rush that allows for growth and new opportunities.

I used her new book, Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock as one of the supporting arguments in a feature about ‘the end of ambition’, which used my own story of leaving employment, career-climbing and the success I always assumed I’d pursue for a quieter and more simple life, more of a nowhere and nothing sort of a life, because I cannot handle the everywhere and everything demands of contemporary achievement and optimisation.

I listened on Audible and my ego was suitably THRILLED to hear a piece of my own, on Burning Man in The Independent, referenced by Odell.