How to Get Stuff Done

October 11th, 2009

“Every few years when it’s been another five years that have passed and I haven’t made a film and the depression starts taking over totally, I allow myself to do a commercial. And then I feel really dirty and get to work promptly.”

-Filmmaker and Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, in 2003, in a conversation with Salman Rushdie published in The Believer. This reminds me of a story about Sigmund Freud that writer George Prochnik told in a great article in Cabinet two summers ago. “Sometime in the summer of 1909, not long before Sigmund Freud was due to embark on his only visit to the United States, he was enjoying a cigar in the company of his inner circle in the busy Biedermeier interior of Berggasse 19, when he suddenly announced, ‘I am going to America to catch sight of a wild porcupine and to give some lectures.’” Cough, cough, awkward pause… porcupine? Then Freud continued,

“‘Whenever you have some large objective in mind, it’s always good to identify a secondary, less demanding goal on which to focus your attentions in order to detract from the anxiety associated with the search for the true grail.”

(Thereafter the phrase “to find one’s porcupine,” became a recognized saying in the Freud circle.)