I would’ve made a fine professional piddler, but sadly no such job exists. Not because there’s no demand for piddlers, but because the term itself is an oxymoron. Professional implies payment is involved. And once that happens, piddling moves into the realm of work.
In the Feb. 2012 issue of Southern Living magazine, Rick Bragg’s article, “The Fine Art of Piddling,” defines piddling in terms of what it is not: “It is not rest...but then neither is it work, something that one toils at, sweats at, something one needs a break from.... It is certainly not something for which one should ever be paid...”
I hesitate to embellish the work of my favorite southern writer, but I’m doing it anyway. I feel I can make valuable contributions into the understanding and acceptance of piddling.
To begin, while Rick makes a distinction only between piddling and work, I contend there are three categories concerning use of time: Work, Piddling, and Complete Waste of Time. My definitions are as follows:
Work—Something that has to be done; it can be enjoyable or not; it isn’t always for money but often is. NOTE: I recommend that to derive full satisfaction from piddling, all pressing work (like a writing deadline or cleaning a fridge full of mold cultures) be completed first. Nothing pulls the pleasure from piddling like pressure. (Sorry about that line, but I couldn’t resist. I find p’s lend themselves especially well to alliteration. Piddle with it, you’ll see what I mean.)
Piddling—Those things we do merely for the satisfaction/pleasure of doing them; they are often simple, routine tasks which allow our minds to roam as we do them; they don’t have to be done; there is always at least one positive result, even if it’s solely enjoyment. Finally—Rick and I are on the same page here—there can never be monetary compensation.
Complete Waste of Time (CWT)—Things we do that we neither have to do nor do we enjoy them; they bring no lasting, positive results and often leave us worse off than before we did them. I hear you asking, “So why would anyone do this?” Good question. I ask myself this every time I watch a reality-TV program or The View.
Placing activities into one of these categories is a highly individualized matter. Like gems and gimcracks, what is one person’s piddling is another’s work or waste of time. For example, for me, ironing my husband’s boxer shorts—yes, there are women who do this—would be CWT right up there with Kardashian-watching. But if either of those activities gives you pleasure, consider it piddling. (I don’t think they can be called work by any stretch of the imagination.)
Sometimes an activity can cross over from one category to another. I have a vine swag around my front door which I decorate for various holidays and seasons. I used to enjoy it. Not so much anymore. What was once piddling is now CWT. The swag is coming down.
I hope I’ve shed some light on the topic of piddling, as it is of utmost importance we preserve this hallowed use of time. Our survival depends on it. I’m certain some of the world’s greatest ideas and inventions have been the result of piddling. Give yourself permission today to indulge in some soul-satisfying, guilt-free piddling. I know I’m going to. In fact, that’s what I’ve been doing as I write this post.
Leave a comment: What’s your piddling passion? (Again with the alliteration!)