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Image / Editorial

Mastering the art of soft-working: Why these famous artists were more productive in PJs


by Shayna Sappington
07th Apr 2020
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Famous artists like Frida Kahlo and James Joyce mastered ‘soft-working’ with this key mindset


Soft-working, a term coined by Newstalk’s Henry McKean, is the state of working from home, in bed or on the couch, most likely in your Penny’s best (PJs, slippers and massive bedhead).

While being productive from home is not everyone’s strong point, soft-working is some people’s most motivating niche.

Famous soft-workers

In fact, many iconic talents worked best surrounded by homely comforts, including James Joyce (who wrote while laying on his stomach), Mark Twain (who wrote from bed with a board on his knees and a pipe in hand), and Frida Kahlo (who painted masterpieces from a bed easel after becoming bedridden from a bus accident).

In fact, author Truman Capote (In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s) once said: “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy.” 

John Lennon

Most famous of these supine savants is John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Their famous photo, featured above, was taken during their honeymoon in Amsterdam, when they staged a four-day bed-in protesting the Vietnam war.

However, it was their second bed-in two months later in Montreal, when they wrote and recorded their famous song ‘Give Peace a Chance’, that marked a milestone in the history of soft-working.

How it works

Many creatives, like Ludwig van Beethoven and Thomas Edison, claimed that being in bed led to the state of hypnagogia (the period of drowsiness preceding sleep), allowing for inspiring hallucinations and artistic epiphanies.  

Harnessing this belief, artist Salvador Dali said he would sleep with a key in one hand, poised above a metal plate placed on the floor. As soon as he began to fall asleep, the key would slip from his fingers and clang against the plate – waking him up immediately. Thus, keeping him in hypnagogia.

The takeaway

For these artists, productivity was not based on how many items they crossed off their to-do list. It was an opportunity to focus on the quality of their works. It was a time of inspiration and creativity, a way to find fresh perspectives in a familiar environment.

So give yourself a break if you, like me, are too exhausted after work to exercise or cook dinner. Instead, try to harness the powers of soft-working for improving your mental wellbeing. 

It goes without saying that long-term soft-working is terrible for your posture, but a stint here and there might just lead to a flash of inspiration.

Read more: Unusually vivid dreams during the coronavirus pandemic? You’re not alone

Read more: Why alone-time is still important, even during a lockdown

Read more: Stressed and sore from too much time at the computer? These 11 tips will help