This just in – apparently, boredom boosts your creativity.
According to studies conducted at the University of Central Lancashire, having a particularly boring day at work can lead to daydreaming, and daydreaming can feed your creative side.
Now, I wouldn’t say my job was boring. I just happened to be having an uncharacteristically boring day in a horribly boring week when I first became aware of that news story doing the rounds.
I agree, having a bit of boredom during your daily activities is definitely good for the old daydreaming. I can attest to this, having daydreamed all the way through my career, and also for a great deal of my education. And indeed, my life.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone, because, duh, I’m a writer. The activity gives at least some substance to my mental wanderings. But my active imagination – this constant indulgence in forms, figures and general fantasies – also serves as an acknowledgement that my hobby is closer to the level of delusion than I should otherwise like to admit.
Bottom line, I waste a lot of time in this here head of mine.
Plots, characters, stories and basic ideas all flood through my mind when I’m at work, or doing anything which is not writing. This isn’t a good thing.
Certainly, it’s not ideal for my career. As the years go by, I have slowly begun to confront the notion that the dream – using my working day to write fiction, essays and screenplays for a living – is probably not going to happen. This “creative” time in my head could amount to a waste. Time which could have been spent building a better career, earning money, and gaining material things in the material world.
There’s a constant state of tension, here, one familiar to anyone with a creative streak; a horror at the idea of my life being sucked into ennui when I really want to write all day, and not bother with the folderol of my office-based activities.
I once imagined a brain surgeon who spends his days in the same way, wondering, just before the first incision, when he’ll ever get time to write his novel.
At least he was a brain surgeon to start with, is the punchline I hit myself with.
As part of that horrific, early January week where I learned that boredom is good for me, I took myself out for walks during my lunch break. I was tired of glaring at my soup, following its bubbly orbit in the battle-scarred office microwave. The weather was benign and we also have the luxury of a nice wee path along the road near our office, which borders some spare ground, with farmer’s fields in the distance. Bliss.
My feet were getting a little itchy… I’ve got athlete’s foot. But anyway, I enjoyed my walks. Each day on that damned week, I walked a little bit further out, before turning back and returning to work.
I began to imagine how things might go if I just kept walking and didn’t go back. Just for fun, I stress. I wasn’t actually going to do it.
Every day, though, I got a little bit later. Watching the birds scraping a living out of hard winter soil. Tracing the frosty green lines towards the horizon. Bypassing the two workmen, pulled up by the side of the road in their transit van, nodding in time to some music and digging into a McDonald’s takeaway bag… And hoping they weren’t sex killers. Just about every passing motorist no doubt wondered what the strange dude in a suit was doing out on the road to nowhere in the depths of winter.
I couldn’t help but think of Mat Craig, the hero of Archie Hind’s classic post-war Glasgow novel, Dear Green Place. Mat has a decent clerical job, but one morning as he walks into the office, heading down the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow, he just decides not to go in. He takes a turn, follows his feet, and decides the rut isn’t for him. He never goes back. He takes the decision to be a writer. To make the treacherous move from being a wannabe, eschewing a place in the rat race in order to follow a near-spiritual obligation.
Like I say, I’ve got bills to pay, folks. Don’t we all?
Possibly I’m not nearly as silly as I might make out. I’ve always worked. I always will. I’ve never even remotely considered striking out alone with the writing. Even though it’s what I desperately wish to do with my life.
Perhaps abstaining in order to have a career is a form of cowardice? At any rate, I’m fortunate to even consider this a problem.
Always, for the artist, there’s the not-so-fine balance between time spent turning one’s hand to practical matters and earning honest money, and the precious, finite hours spent creating your art. You’ve got to make money, so you can’t write. You’d like to write for money, but if money is your main motivation for writing – if it doesn’t come bursting out of you, to paraphrase Charles Bukowski – then you are probably destined to fail regardless. Writing is a calling, not an occupation. Even if someone pays you for it.
These are first world problems, of course. I should just take the money. You can bet I’m thankful to have work, an income, a means to pay my creditors. I can almost hear my father’s ghost bellowing at me to shut up, get my head down, and carry on. I’ll do that.
So, in terms of writing, for 2013 the song remains the same. Work as much as possible, turn out at least 1500 words on something every day. I’ve managed this so far for 2013. If anyone’s interested, my projects are as follows:
- Complete Project Orpheus (we’re about 15,000 words away, folks)!;
- Untitled flash fiction collection, to be written every day until complete (I am very strict with this)
- Complete screenplay;
- Begin new novel;
- If no-one wants it – and seriously, ye agents, you are missing out on big money – finally drag the Beast of Barlingborough Bay’s barnacle-studded arse onto Kindle. Give a poor old monster a home.
My one new year’s resolution, in what is definitely going to be an action-packed year, is to work harder. It’s the only way to break on through.
In the meantime, whenever the whistle signals my lunch break back at the Daily Grind, I’ll continue my daily perambulations, weather permitting. It beats the hell out of vegetating in an office all day. And who knows, while I’m out for walkies, new ideas might strike.
Well, naturally. I can’t help it any more than you can.
Stay hungry this year, everyone.