When your creative spark goes out, a single interesting idea can bring you back to life.
A very good book once described art as a war. That feels too big for me unless banging your head against a desk waiting for something amazing to fall out can be considered a form of war.
At the beginning of every creative project is raw excitement; at the end — exhausted pride. In the middle, there is an inevitable boredom.
Anyone can go into war. Only real artists can conquer the bore of art.
During the bore of art, you wonder if you really have to write another word, make another brushstroke, play another note, or move another pixel. You’ve done this before. Why should you have to do it again? It’s an empty agony.
Art is supposed to be a fantastic adventure with muses and demons and coffee. More often, though, it feels like a lonely trek with blank screens and frustrated dreams. (Thankfully, though there is still coffee.)
Naming it “the messy middle” doesn’t quite capture what happens in that seemingly endless period between the beginning and the end of a project. It’s closer to madness. You wonder if you should have picked a different idea, or a different career. You should have become a doctor like your mom wanted. You wonder why you can’t seem to write a single interesting thing.
How do you overcome the bore of art? Seek wisdom people who smarter than you. Often those who have been through the struggle have solutions you couldn’t reach alone.
Here’s Neil Gaiman on writing novels:
“You have to write when you’re not inspired…and the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back and won’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which you wrote because they had to be written next.”
In other words, when you are bored, make stuff anyway.
This is not a battle cry. Boredom is not an enemy, it is a state of mind, one which, more times than not, leads to genius.
Lin Manuel Miranda came up with the idea for Hamilton while bored. Albert Einstein developed world-altering physics equations while bored. Bruno Mars wrote a breakout hit single while bored.
The bore of art is a gentle prodding: “Do something more interesting.”
“More interesting” might not be at your computer screen. It might be hidden on your bookshelf, buried in your basement, or tucked deep within the woods you used to wander.
The only cure I know of for boredom is to allow your mind to roam. Put down your weapons and embrace the benefits of surrender. When you find yourself facing the bore of art, don’t try and grind it away. Leave your desk. Run. Draw. Wander. Do laundry.
Allow your brain to feel that spark again, to access your inner child who says “oh yes, this is fun!” The bore of art is inevitable. It should never be indefinite.
After all, boredom is usually a signal that you’re about to get better.
Well, it is if you don’t quit.
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