Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Necessary Boredom--Why Nonstop Rainy Days Actually Help Creativity

Dorothy Allison is the author of Bastard Out of Carolina and many other novels and short stories. Unusual in someone who has had a very dramatic and traumatic life, Allison spoke in an interview about "necessary boredom." If it's present, she has enough intensity in her head for writing.

As I thought about this, I realized the truth of it: when I have too much going on in my outer life, there's no internal space to dream. My writing process suffers.

Writing process asks you to put aside the tendency toward drama in your outer life and put it into those pages. Writing is a priority in your life, you are committed to starting/finishing your book, and you are able to disengage from the outer drama enough to find the inner stillness to capture original ideas.

Lately, I have had to work hard to find this inner stillness. In the past month I got married at my home with 70 guests present, my family began packing to move to another state, my teenager graduated and is preparing for a month-long cross-country trip, I squeezed in a visit to see my elderly mom, and I helped open a cabin belonging to my family. Exhausting just to write about! And that's not counting normal work--teaching writing classes and coaching writers each week. Where, I've wondered, is there time for necessary boredom?

Schedules help. As much as they hamper the creative flow for me, they also create space for it. I sat with my family and went over schedules. We blocked in time for doing nothing. Sounds strange, backward, but it worked. Each family member got nothing time, alone in the house if possible, or alone at the fun places he or she likes best. We're all creative people. We all needed this necessary boredom.

The rain helped too. New England has had rain 19 out of 21 days in June, and many are experiencing what the New York Times called "rain rage" but I took it as a sign from the Universe that necessary boredom was being fostered.

Today's my morning. As soon as I post this blog, I'm taking myself into a spare bedroom with books and journals and ideas. I'm sitting and staring, getting bored with myself and my life. Out of it, I hope ideas will come. I'll be there to write them down.

This week's exercise: get bored. Stop running the wheel for two seconds and do nothing. Schedule it if you have to, as I did. Let yourself slow, slow, slow down enough to where the original thoughts begin to surface. Where you let go of all those other people's voices and begin to hear your own.