Editor’s note: this article was first posted in 2010.
I got bored last week. Very bored. Oh boy.
“But Ollin. You’re a writer! It’s your passion. You should never get bored with your passion!”
Ha. Right. You would think so. I guess we can knock that myth, too. Non-writers probably think writers have some magical gene that makes them impervious to boredom. Writers can spend hours and hours non-stop in front of a laptop by themselves, cut off from the world, and enjoy ever single minute of it–without rest or break. Because we looooove it so much.
Eh, right. I know you like to think of us as pale-faced Morlocks who are overly shy, socially retarded, and have a phobia of words like “Fun” and “Outdoorsey.” But the truth is writers do have a social life that needs to be attended to. A social life we may only choose to neglect out of sacrifice for our writing.
Boredom can be a big challenge for writers. It’s an ugly thing that can snowball pretty quickly into a bad case of WB (a.k.a. Writer’s Block) if you don’t attend to it quickly. Boredom often comes unexpectedly. It’s a guest you didn’t invite that suddenly shows up and asks to stay for the night. Then weeks pass and you keep staring at Boredom like: “You’re STILL here? WHY haven’t you left yet!?“
The reason that Boredom is still chillaxin’ in your living room is because you haven’t kicked him out yet. Yes, Boredom needs to be kicked out if you really want him gone. Not asked, not begged, not blackmailed, seduced, or tricked. Nope. BOREDOM needs to be KICKED OUT with as much force as you can muster.
So Boredom came to crash at my pad last week and I tried my best to shove him out the door. Here’s what I did to finally kick Boredom out, and get back to the book.
Take a break
You might be wondering. How did I get so bored with something that I love so much? It’s because you’ve been beating it to death. You’re suffocating it with your presence. You’re overdoing it. You’ve spent too much time, one-on-one with it and now its begging you: “Hey Dad, I love you and all. And it’s great spending time with you, but… Can I spend time with my friends now?” Let the book go play for a while. Let it breath and stretch. Let it take a run around the park. You need a break, too. Take as much time as you need. Don’t sweat it. The book will be there when you’re ready.
Do the opposite
Now I doubt that a professional basketball player who is getting bored with practicing free-throws starts to write a novel (although that would be awesome), but for writers, doing the opposite usually works. You’ve been sitting down this whole time, doing work that requires only half of your brain and nothing else. It’s time to give the other 95% of your body some attention for once. So get off your butt and get physical! I found running to be very relaxing and refreshing on my break. When you were a kid and you were bored, you and your friends would just start playing freeze-tag, or red light/green light, or hot potato–the point is, you moved! And movement kills boredom. Check and mate.
This may seem counterintuitive because as you are writing you are also reading, but the difference is that when you write, what you are reading is your own work. Which, as we have discussed, is now far away from any finished product. By it’s very nature looking at bad writing all day (especially your own) can get very very boring. However, reading another writer’s finished work (especially from a genre different from your own) can have the exact opposite effect: it can be relaxing and even inspiring. As you read someone else’s work, you’re not stressed out anymore because you’re no longer trying to fix or study what you are reading. You’re just enjoying yourself. Talk about catharsis: the book you’re reading is already in its final draft–published, printed and pre-read by the masses. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading: “Every man has to learn the points of a compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations – Henry David Thoreau.” Dude, did HDT just turn my confused despair into a serene peace with a profound, universal truth? Uh, yeah he did. Woah.
If I have one more Caramel Macchiato I will vomit. That’s it. I’m moving my writing to the library, where the stench of coffee doesn’t stick to my clothes and I don’t have to overhear yet another person give their best friend bad relationship advice. (HE’S NOT THAT INTO YOU! There’s a whole movie about it! Rent it and save money on that crappy, mass-produced latte you’re not gonna finish.)
Get hooked on a new artist
Music is often the writer’s savior. It can be really motivational and inspiring in ways I can’t really describe. But sometimes the old playlist can kill your desire to create, so that’s when it’s time to discover yourself your new favorite artist.
I think that a great song can punch Boredom in the face, give it a wedgy, and throw it off of the front porch.
Phew. Thank goodness. I think me and my passion are gonna be juuuust fine. Now back to the book…
Eh… I think I’m going to go running first.