This is a guest article by Indiana Lee. If you want to submit a guest article of your own, be sure to read the guest article guidelines.
The writer’s life is one of relative isolation. Unless you happen to enjoy working in a busy coffee shop, you’ll produce most of your work at a desk with only your thoughts and the cursor for company. While most writers enjoy working alone, there are times when your mind begins to wander, and boredom sets in. This is entirely normal, as even prolific writers profess to work in boring, somewhat dull environments.
However, those same prolific writers explain that boredom isn’t a bad thing. As a writer, you can leverage these insights to find creative inspiration. Used correctly, boredom can help you demolish your writer’s block, strike upon new ideas, and produce prose to be proud of.
The psychology of boredom
Boredom is something that most people try to avoid. However, if you’re a writer, boredom can act as a catalyst that spurs some of your most brilliant ideas. This approach is championed by writers like novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy.
In an interview with Sante Fe Institute President David Krakauer, McCarthy explains that writers need to give their unconscious time to work through complex problems. McCarthy also explains that this is because the unconscious often seems “so reluctant” to explain ideas clearly in language.
As a writer, you can use these insights to your advantage by freewriting when boredom threatens to take you away from your work. Freewriting helps you bring latent ideas to the forefront of your mind and helps you wrestle solutions to complex problems from your unconscious. A short freewriting session can help you warm up your writing skills and may improve your poetry or prose when you do sit down to write in earnest. This can be a transformative experience if you’re used to hopping on Instagram or Facebook when boredom strikes.
Boredom and your health
You don’t have to be a novelist to benefit from boredom. Sometimes, silence and boredom are exactly what you need to produce blog posts and copywriting for clients with challenging deadlines. Turning off your phone, shutting the office door, and forcing yourself to write can be a powerful, if boring, way to get through your work for the day.
That said, too much boredom can pose serious health risks. Excessive boredom is connected with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety as well as physical conditions like heart disease. Being bored regularly can be stressful, too, as most folks find that boredom only exacerbates feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Rather than committing yourself to a life of boredom, make time for activities that are engaging, too. Spending time socializing with others and playing games can recharge your writerly batteries and help you rediscover your enthusiasm for writing. Sometimes, breaking your boredom with a walk or a workout is just what your mind needs to generate new ideas and help you see a project with new eyes.
Letting your mind wander is a great way to explore complex problems and generate fresh ideas. However, if you’re a writer, then you’ll know how easy it is to forget an important plot point or argument once you get off the couch or close down your laptop.
Learn to harness your imagination and make the best use of your boredom by leveraging process visualization strategies. Process visualization is a powerful way to map out your thoughts and record your insights. This is particularly beneficial if you’re working on a collaborative project with other writers. By noting down your thoughts, you improve collaboration by giving others a chance to pitch in their ideas equally.
Visual thinking with process visualization can help you untangle difficult ideas and get a top-down view of the argument, too. You can use colored sticky pads to indicate the hierarchy of ideas and can sort concepts by using shapes and symbols to represent quotes, research, and statistics.
Mapping out your ideas can also be helpful if you’re a creative writer. Sometimes, it feels as though you’ve lost the plot and have forgotten why you sat down to tell a story in the first place. Rather than giving up on a chapter or character, slow down and map out your narrative arc. This helps you see the big picture and can simplify your creative process.
Boredom can be a writer’s best friend. It forces you to reassess your ideas and can keep you focused on the task at hand for longer. Creating a boring, blank space to work in can help you beat writer’s block, as you’ll have no option other than to write to fill the time.
If you’re still struggling to write, consider using techniques like free writing and visualization to stimulate your creativity. These tasks help you leverage your boredom by keeping you on track while alleviating the burden of the blank page.
About the author: Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.