Boredom, and What to Do About It
A few weeks ago, when I was outlining my goals for the year, I noted that my production had decreased dramatically in November and had yet to pick up again. I’ve spent a little time thinking about why that’s happening, and finally decided that I’ve been afflicted by that slightly less obnoxious cousin to burnout: boredom.
*gasps of horror from the audience*
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I know that admitting it is not the done thing, but the truth is, I was having a lot of difficulty finding the spark that made writing worthwhile. My characters never seemed to do anything, their conversations were flat and formal instead of amusing and witty, and the very act of putting words on the page had become a slog. I went through some of my older, unfinished works in search of inspiration, but that served to depress me, as I re-read the amusing, action-filled snippets of my younger self. I wondered if the magic was gone- writing used to be fun, and I wasn’t sure if I could make it so again. This sent me into a tailspin of worry and disappointment, which made it even harder to write.
But the other option was to go out and get a day job. I could do so, and have sent in a couple applications, but I really want to write. So, how to make it a job that doesn’t fill me with dread and ennui?
An excellent question. I did a lot of poking around in my writing and my psyche, and realized that I’ve been writing nothing but quiet, gentle regency romances for the past six months. Popcorn books. Designed to be soothing to the reader. Nothing much happens in these books, and there’s always a happy ending. They’re wonderful to read and to write in moderation, but I’d been essentially living on a diet of popcorn for half a year, with nary a steak in sight. Not even a vegetable to add interest to the meal.
This was disconcerting to me. I used to have two or three projects running at a time, and though I didn’t realize it, I was alternating romance with epic fantasy. So if I needed something exciting, I wrote in the fantasy WIP for a few days. If I was stressed and needed something easy, I wrote in the romance WIP. This was an excellent system for me, but I somehow moved away from it last summer and didn’t realize.
So I’ve revisited The Garia Cycle, much earlier than I anticipated. It’s an epic fantasy, with lots of swords and horses and aristocrats beating the hell out of each other on the battlefield. And even the calmer, character focused moments are interesting- Lazlo Skirgata is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever created. Or perhaps I’ve spent more time in his head than in most other characters. Either way, working on The Garia Cycle has helped to remind me that writing can be fun.
I’ve also tried to make my gentle little romances more entertaining. If I find them a snooze-fest, that’s surely going to carry over to the readers’ experiences. So I’ve made a point of giving my characters hobbies and interests outside of the bog-standard regency pastimes of writing letters and going to balls. In my current WIP, Miss Amalie Vaughn has a love of flowers and gardening. Like so many things during the Regency, gardening was changing, from the soft landscapes of the Romantic movement, to something more scientific and exotic, yet more accessible to the average person due to technological advances. Amalie prefers the softer, less restrained gardens, and her love interest likes the more scientific, orderly style that would come to the forefront later in the Victorian era. This gives them a basis for both conversation and argument, and has made the book more interesting. It feels like something happens, even though nothing really does happen. And it’s given me an excuse to dive into books and documentaries on gardening history (I have a tendency to binge-watch and -read gardening information during this time of year, anyway, so I might as well put it to use).
These are relatively easy fixes for the boredom that afflicted me, and though I’m not up to where I should be, production-wise, I’ve seen an improvement. Even a few hundred words a day, plus a little research, is far better than the nothing I was accomplishing over the holidays.
I’ve been lucky. I realized that I wasn’t writing, that writing had become boring, and why my relationship with my job had changed- in a short space of time. And a solution presented itself rather quickly. But I’m sure this won’t be the last time I face such a problem, nor the most severe instance of it. So, tell me, dear reader- have you ever been bored with writing? How did you discover that was the problem? How did you fix it, and how do you plan to combat writing-related ennui in the future?