Boredom is good

Back in August, 2005, I read a stunningly good story by an author who was then unfamiliar to me. The author was Kelly Link, and the story, “Magic for Beginners,” was a sort of magical-realism-science-fiction-fantasy story with characters that were very well drawn. Since then, I’ve read some other stories by Link, and while I feel “Magic for Beginners” is her best story, everything I’ve read by her is good enough that I’m willing to listen when she says something about writing.

In an interview in the November, 2007, issue of Locus magazine, she asserts that boredom is useful, perhaps even necessary, for writers:

Boredom is useful for writers. I need a certain amount of boredom to get work done. But I also need to do other things besides sit at a desk and write…. You need other kinds of work, and you also need significant periods of stillness in order to have time to think. Boredom allows time for thinking. Even in writing, boredom serves a useful function in writing — if I’m boring myself when I write, it means I need to stretch myself, try something I haven’t done before….

I don’t know if boredom is useful to everyone who writes, but boredom certainly is useful for me when I’m trying to write. When I get overly busy — and I have been very busy the past month or so — I don’t write much, and what I write isn’t worth much.

Yet another reason for not letting excessive busy-ness creep into my life.

3 thoughts on “Boredom is good

  1. John 672

    Hello Dan,

    Boredom is not just good for writing, you know… I’ve heard more than a few Buddhist describe meditation as “sitting around being bored”. In any case, having time just to think and/or day dream is a good stress reducer. Good article.


  2. Jean

    Okay, I have to weigh in here. I don’t think “boredom” is good for writing. Stillness, yes. Quiet, sure. Reflection, definitely. Attention, patience, meditation. Yes, yes, yes. But boredom? Boredom, as our Mom used to point out, is mostly a reflection on the person who claims to be “bored.” As she would say, it may just mean you’re not very interesting. So, no. Boredom, to me, means an inability or unwillingness to engage fruitfully and creatively with the world around you. How can this be good for writing?

  3. JMB

    A quick anecdote…

    One morning in the summer of 1969 I complained to my mother: “I’m bored.”

    She stopped making my bed, turned to me and said, “Write a poem.”

    “How do you do that?” I asked.

    And so it began. I say boredom can be the perfect catalyst; however, someone with a prod might be helpful.

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