“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing. -Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet, and playwright.” Gertrude Stein


But what did Ms. Gertrude mean by genius?

Lately I’m seeing or hearing the word everywhere. All those folks who work behind a counter in the Apple store are geniuses. Kids with exceptional memories on a quiz show are all geniuses. Creators of Super Bowl ads are geniuses.

I doubt Ms. Stein had those people in mind.

Maybe she thought, as I do, that a genius is someone who rises far above the rest of us because of the ability to discover or grasp something that eludes us commoners. I’m guessing this ability springs from a combination of general intelligence, imagination, and the openness to inspiration.

And according to Ms. Stein, another step toward genius is the willingness or ability to do nothing, really nothing.

Which makes me wonder if, even I can never earn the title, I might get closer to genius, say expand my imagination or find more inspiration, by spending more time doing nothing.

Since I’m lousy at doing nothing, perhaps I need to try harder. A problem is, by the time I accomplish all the tasks I feel obliged to do, including the pleasant stuff that appears necessary to keep my spirits up — after all that, the moment I try to do nothing, I fall asleep.

I suspect that with effort and determination I could ignore every request to cook dinner (Zoe can cook) or wash clothes (thereby saving water) or volunteer for this or that, also ignore every suggestion about how to promote my books, and decline to answer phone calls, emails and texts from chatty friends.

Or maybe I can get better at really doing nothing while I’m doing something. I wonder, can doing nothing be a multitask element?

Maybe we can do a mindless physical activity like running or walking while mentally doing nothing except watching out for cars or vicious dogs.

If nothing else, we might want to post Ms. Gertrude’s words in some prominent place. Then, if anyone, say a family member, believes in our potential for genius (which of course might deliver fame and fortune) the quote will give us a ready excuse for loafing.


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