I read the introduction to Franz Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS yesterday, the Bantam Classic version translated and edited by Stanley Corngold. In Corngold's introduction he reported that Kafka wrote the following in his diary:
"It is easy to recognize a concentration in me of all my forces on writing. When it became clear in my organism that writing was the most productive direction for my being to take, everything rushed in that direction and left empty all those abilities which were directed toward the joys of sex, eating, drinking, philosophical reflection and above all music...Naturally I did not find this purpose independently and consciously, it found itself, and is now interfered with only by the office [Kafka worked for the state's Workers Accident Insurance Institute], but that interferes with it completely.... My development is now complete and, so far as I can see, there is nothing left to sacrifice; I need only throw my work in the office out of this complex in order to begin my real life."
Corngold then went on to write: 'But the matter is more complicated. The Diaries go on to record periods of freedom from the office, yet no work accomplished. Kafka cared so much about his writing, felt so intensely its power over him, that he must have wanted to put up resistances to it for fear that it would leave nothing of himself.'
At this point I burst out laughing at Corngold's deadly earnest and ominously meaningful attribution of Kafka's periodic lack of productivity to his being afraid of being swallowed up by his life's passion. Instantly I thought "That's why I have great periods of inactivity!" I'm kidding, of course.
I have this vision of Kafka sitting at his desk sharpening pencils or squaring up his paper pile, organizing the desk drawer, making coffee or tea, having a small snack, checking to see if the mail had arrived, chatting with his neighbor, alphabetizing (for the hundredth time) his small collection of books, daydreaming, running small errands...you know, procrastination, a far more likely reason for his producing nothing than any existential fear of being eaten up by the work. After all, Kafka, for all his strangeness, was human too.
As Gene Fowler once said and Dan and others have quoted on this forum before: "Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." Procrastination is far easier and far more pleasant!