Where Joyce tried writing everything in, Beckett tried leaving everything out. For Joyce, writing was a process of addition; for Beckett, one of subtraction. In Waiting for Godot, the phrase “Nothing to be done” becomes a kind of mantra. But it’s just an opinion, as Vlad says, even as he considers giving in to it:
Estragon (giving up on his boot) - Nothing to be done. Vladimir - I'm beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I've tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven't yet tried everything.
“Waiting for Godot,” Samuel Beckett, 1953
Beckett’s characters often seem to have nothing to do. Most modern distractions are taken out, life’s experience parboiled to essentials. There are not many spices on Beckett’s kitchen shelf. Estragon and Vladimir don’t have cell phones. No books, no television, no newspaper. The game is not on. The team is not in town. The ballpark is empty. The surf is flat. While they consider what to do when there is nothing to be done, they can’t sit still. They talk. They have one another.
If they had pen and notebook, maybe they’d doodle:
If they had a laptop, maybe they’d blog.
The trick it seems, by whatever means, is to get to the essential….
That is essentially that.