When was the last time you were bored? During my childhood, those who dared utter the forbidden phrase “I’m bored” were saddled with a chore or two (or three). Boredom is often viewed as idleness, and the solution is to fill that void with productivity. What if I told you that, as a writer, boredom holds an advantage?
I used to avoid nonfiction—in both reading and writing—until I discovered that creative nonfiction employs literary techniques usually associated with fiction. How could this be? And would trying it expand my skills?
Last February, I contracted a severe case of creative block. Inspiration seemed to pack its bags and depart for an unknown region. Everything I wrote sounded wrong, and artistic feats became a struggle. I couldn’t craft a poem, paint a canvas, or sketch a character! I’d never experienced such a widespread form of mental paralysis before.
We live in a society that loves to overflow each day with pursuits. All too often, we pile on obligation after obligation. Our kids need a chauffeur, the church needs a Sunday School teacher, our mother needs a gardener, the writers group needs a speaker for next weekend, and the list goes on.
Many of us, myself included, struggle to break away from the types of stories we gravitate toward. We assume that we need more training before we can tackle a different genre or point of view. But expanding is one of our responsibilities as writers, and it’s a precursor to growth!
We’ve all been struck by writer’s block at one point or another. We lament the shortage of words and wait impatiently for inspiration to return. But even when we’re unable to make progress on a project, most of us would rather die than voluntarily set down our pens. We bravely forge through any and all problems, determined to meet our goals.
Rejections are a staple of the writing life. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But it’s true. I have a notebook where I track the status of all my short story submissions. I’ve recorded roughly forty titles in it from 2019.
I’m stubborn. I finish the projects I start. And I’m one of those rare souls who welcomes constructive criticism. Yet, as I stared at the latest beta reader feedback for the book my heart had been crying out to write, I couldn’t identify any consistencies or trends. All my beta readers disagreed on my book’s strengths and weaknesses. Worse, unlike my earlier books, no one gushed that they were excited for this sequel to be published.
“Ye shall not surely die.” Ever since the snake whispered in Eve’s ear in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been susceptible to lies. Our volatile emotions open up vulnerabilities for falsehood to sink its teeth into. As writers, a distorted mindset can hinder our growth, damage our creative potential, separate us from reality, prevent us from accomplishing goals, and trap us in despair.
A blank page unleashes an infinite amount of plots, scenes, and characters that beg us to outline their existence in ink. But, if we can’t channel our influx of ideas, the excitement of starting a new project will quickly dissipate. Instead, we’ll be overwhelmed and unable to tell any story at all. A surplus of inspiration can cripple a writer’s sanity as much as a shortage.