When you’re in the flow, words come naturally and scenes seem to build themselves. Nothing is easier than writing a description for a new setting or dialogue for a well-established character when you feel connected to your creative streak.
However, every writer knows that the good times cannot last. At times, it feels as though your personal muses must have better things to do than help you with a plot twist or an opening paragraph.
Experiencing slack in your creative process is entirely normal. Every writer has to overcome writer’s block at some point (even if it is a little uncomfortable).
Working through periods of creative inertia and boredom can actually lead to heightened productivity in the future. The techniques you use to break boredom can spur new ideas that take your stories into exciting, unexpected new directions.
Feeling bored while behind the keyboard is a sure sign that you’re about to hit a period of prolonged writer’s block. Your keystrokes slow down, your ideas become less fluid, and you may even begin to resent the writing process.
This is entirely normal for writers across all genres. Even literary giants like Gabriel Garcia Marquez lament “the most terrible specter of writers,” also known as “the morning agony of facing the blank page.” The good news is that the creative anguish you’re experiencing now will not last forever.
In fact, many authors tend to believe that this boredom is essential for the creative process. Neil Gaiman believes that boredom is an author’s best friend. Gaiman explains that many of “the best ideas come from daydreaming,” and that “you have to let yourself get so bored that your mind has nothing better to do than tell itself a story.”
Before you commit yourself to a lifetime of watching paint dry, it is worth pointing out that sustained boredom can have negative health consequences. Boredom releases stress hormones which increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Left unchecked, this kind of boredom can spiral into social anxiety, depression, and isolation.
The key, then is to change your frame of mind. Rather than seeing boredom as a negative thing, see it as an invitation to change your perspective, rediscover your inspiration, and work on other elements of your manuscript.
Daydreaming through boredom is a great way to think up plot points and character arcs. It’s easy to think of a story when you’re away with the fairies and have hardly a care in the world for your real work. However, if you’ve been in the writing game for a while, you’ll know that those inspired ideas are easy to forget when you break out of your daydreaming reverie.
Harness your boredom and improve your focus by visually mapping your thoughts using process visualization. Process visualization is a tool used by folks from all fields. Like brainstorming, it involves visually mapping out important ideas on a blank page. This can be transformative if you’re used to free-thinking and random spurts of creative output. For example, if you’re writing a novel based on an adventure, you might map out important plot points like:
- Your hero receives a call to adventure;
- They meet a mentor along the way;
- They have to overcome an ordeal;
- Your hero must try to return home.
These plot points, loosely based on the hero’s journey, don’t have to be thoroughly thought out. They simply help you focus your intention on ideas that are relevant to your writing. This can empower your creativity, organize your ideas, and help you break out of a boredom cycle.
Rediscovering your passion for prose can be tricky when you’re in a rut. Even the best writers run low on creative juices when they’re in the middle of a novel or are halfway through a lengthy blog post.
Fortunately, inspiration is never far from my hand as a writer. You don’t need to see a soothsayer or consult an oracle to figure out what to write next — you simply need to open a book.
This sentiment is echoed by John Green, who explains that “Reading is just as important as writing when you’re trying to be a writer.” Cracking open a favorite novel can teach you lessons about the art of writing, too. That’s why Green goes so far as to call reading “the only apprenticeship we have.”
Reading for inspiration doesn’t have to be passive, either. Instead, sharpen a pencil and make annotations as you go. How does the author develop the plot? What narrative devices do they use to explain a character’s emotions? Which sentences cause you to pause and consider a bigger idea?
If you’re still not feeling the inspiration, open a new document and start copying your favorite novel verbatim. Notice how the author has built their story and the tempo of the sentences. Eventually, you’re almost certain to hit a point where you are ready to begin producing your prose and can use this borrowed momentum to turn boredom into creative inspiration.
Writing isn’t always a fun-filled endeavor. You’re certain to run into boredom along the way and will notice that your creative juices start to wane as you work through difficult projects. Rather than seeing writer’s block as a bad thing, try to see it as a catalyst for future creativity. Seen in this light, the time you spend staring at a blank page or reading books for inspiration is not unproductive. Instead, it’s an incubation period that is sure to generate some exciting results in the future.