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Get Bored!

I can tell you I sure haven’t. Last weekend was LTUE, which was wonderful. I highly recommend it for those in the general hemisphere. This past week has been the attempt a return to routine. HAH. We, this Woden’s Day last, enrolled the Wee Horde in dance lessons. Not cheap (though I suspect it’s actually gotten cheaper considering inflation and suchlike), but it’s another hour a week I can adult. I also wrestled with the black dog this weekend gone, and that’s not getting any easier. In between, there have been massive bouts of laundry, menu planning, grocery shopping, and attempting new recipes. I’ve been swamped, and I may not even have my health.

But the key to (possibly) eternal life and certainly to another door in the creaky gothic mansion of the ol’ writing imaginarium was handed to me via offhanded comment from a writer buddy, our own Dorothy Grant. She relayed that temporary boredom gave her mind the space it needed to come up with a missing plot element in her WIP. And I kinda grunted from the metaphysical body blow she unintentionally struck.

Y’see, I used to get bored. “I’m booooooored,” I’d often relate to my (now) venerable father in august tones I’d spent hours practicing in front of the mirror. It was vital to life and salvation that he understand my deepest trials, you see. I’m pleased to relay to you that he showered me with all the sympathy and attention I deserved. Which is to say, none: “that’s your problem, my son. You have an enormous number of pastimes available to you, and figuring out how to be un-bored is a vital skill. Get to it.”

And so I did. And I’m pleased to inform you, dear readers, that I’ve rarely been bored in all the years since. It’s largely the same advice I give my own spawn when they complain to me about their unexercised imaginations. BUT. And much like those of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s appreciation, this is a big one. I rarely spend enough time without noise of some kind for my imagination to run wild. You can intentionally push the imagination in certain directions, as a drover, ah, encourages his team onward with his lash and calls. Certainly, you can. I would advise, however, that you spend some time in quiet reflection, as well.

Pushing your imagination is important to the writing process. It’s like resistance training. I lift weights to increase my strength and muscular hypertrophy. If, however, the only activity I get is intense, directed, and more or less mono-planar, my body is going to get very used to only a few movements, and while I’ll be strong, I likely won’t be terribly useful. Play is required, as well, so the body consumes a diverse and interesting diet. And then there’s recovery, which is even more of what I’m talking about here.

With exercise, if you push too hard, too long, you get injured. (Ask me how I know.) With creativity, if you push too hard, too long (or even just too fast), you get burnout. It’s related, and equally uncomfortable. Strategic boredom is like allowing your body sufficient recovery time after strenuous exercise. It can pay dividends.

I promise I’ll have more fiction, next week. Things have been weird and unsettled, and it’s been impacting the fictioning. I’m working on that. And not just because I’m a mercenary liar. I mean, I need to keep the kiddles in tuition and dance shoes, but I also want to maintain as even a keel as I can for my own sake, and not-writing is a badness thing where that’s concerned.

9 Comments
  1. Evenstar #

    Whenever I complained of boredom my mother gave me chores to complete.

    February 25, 2020
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      I can’t remember it happening to me, but that’s what I thought saying “I’m bored” to a parent would result in happening.

      Note, just because I don’t remember it happening doesn’t mean that it didn’t happened. 😉

      February 25, 2020
    • Mary #

      That was a little difficult when the reason was I was dragged along on trips for Adult Stuff where I had nothing to do. 0:)

      February 25, 2020
  2. Holly #

    One of the best parts of a good dance program is that it wears them right out, and they collapse from exhaustion, and parents get quiet and can think.

    February 25, 2020
  3. Sometimes a mindless routine – chopping vegetables, for instance, or working out, desperately hoping for a bunny to hop by – can help respark creativity. Or at least zone into a better mood for it. Good luck!

    February 25, 2020
  4. Dorothy Grant #

    I read an article earlier, you see, that posited we’ve become addicted to the dopamine hit of constant new shiny things on our smartphones, at the expense of serotonin hits from bonding face-to-face with people, and prioritizing instant response via twitter/messenger/texting/etc. has trained us to impulsively do or say something immediately instead of doing or saying it well.

    Which makes a lot of sense; I’m still thinking about that one. But I did put down the smartphone, and simply waited out the boredom of not having an instant new distraction, or hitting refresh 20 times to see if I have a new email or message in chat. And my backbrain finally went “So, the issue is that after this chapter, you have no immediate goals that the characters really want, only long-term ones. What will they really want? How will they solve that?

    And fifteen minutes of boredom later, I wasn’t bored, because I have what’s probably the next three chapters’ highlights roughed out.

    February 25, 2020
  5. Yeah, avoidance of boredom is a thing. I had a client once with an anxiety disorder who was the very model of a perfect client. Due diligence to completing self directed task, and highly motivated too.

    We got to the part of therapy where we had to practice mindfulness, which is the ability to let random thoughts go by letting random thoughts wander around ones head and learning not to engage with them by various techniques.

    I cottoned on that my client had stumbled with this without realizing he had failed to get to grips with the problem, so we practiced together for 5 minutes using what I call, “Raisins to be Cheerful” exercise. At the end of which time my client proclaimed that I had made him sit and tortured him for 20 minutes with silence.

    As the clock on the wall showed that only 5 minutes had passed. Problem identified. A eureka moment for my client! So Dorothy was right, but tolerance with boredom is a thing if it is to be used creatively.

    February 26, 2020
  6. mrsizer #

    It’s sort of like that article that went around the interwebz a couple weeks ago in which someone was shocked that not everyone had an internal “voice” when they thought.

    I don’t get bored even when doing boring things (e.g. waiting in line) because I can always do something in my head. My body doesn’t have to be engaged for my brain to be active. For some people, that seems impossible (or at least very difficult). For example, people who cannot just sit still listening to music. They must move or sing along or something. They can’t just sit there.

    I’m just the opposite, when my body is doing something, I can’t think. When I run, I think about running. When I workout, I think about lifting weights. I have attention focus disorder.

    February 27, 2020
    • Mary #

      There are people who took a long time to figure out that they don’t have a sense of smell. They just sort of thought that smelling was a metaphorical way of saying something was nasty — absorbed rather than reasoned — starting from an age too young to deduce things.

      February 27, 2020

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