The Importance of Boredom

The importance of boredom in the (novel-)writing process cannot be understated. Christopher Nolan, one of the most talented and successful film directors of the present generation, has posed the question: “What if when you kill boredom, you also kill creativity?”

To back up his point, Nolan does not own a mobile phone. This gives him, in his own words, “time to think.” He claims that smartphones are essentially killing boredom; and while this may sound great, ostensibly, the death of boredom comes at a price. But what is this price, you might ask?

Below are five reasons that emphasise the importance of boredom, and why it is absolutely vital for a writer.

1 – Time To Think Deeply

Christopher Nolan emphasising the importance of boredom when answering a question.
Christopher Nolan has a point. If one were to kill boredom, would that not also kill creativity as well?

Killing boredom may temporarily relieve people of life’s frustrations. But if one continuously distracts oneself, a person becomes incapable of thinking deeply. Considering that thought is the foundation for all great stories (as was discussed here), an inability to think deeply will greatly hinder a writer’s skills.

Writers need time and thought to come up with, develop, and iron out their storylines (as was discussed in a previous blog piece on how to approach writing a novel). If writers do not give themselves the requisite amount of time for this, their stories will be half-baked at best. No-one wants that, least of all the writers themselves.

2 – Creativity

Just as necessity breeds creativity, so does boredom. The famous 19th-century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, amusingly once said: “The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.”

Regardless of the truth of (or the blasphemy in) Kierkegaard’s saying, when one is bored one is unsatisfied. And when one is unsatisfied, one goes seeking for something that will satisfy his/her mind. This leads one on the path of thought, wherein one has the opportunity to contemplate and twist ideas, as well as to revisit scenes from books or films that one did not like. (I think you are starting to appreciate the importance of boredom now.)

3 – A Novel’s Premise Can Be Born

As previously said, boredom forces people to think; especially, if they have a restless mind. The more they think about ideas or scenes that they did not like, the more they will go off on mental tangents or contemplate conflictions.

This is brilliant! One of these tangents and/or conflictions (if not many of them) will provide writers with an excellent premise for a novel as well as several scenes.

4 – Learn From Past Mistakes

“The greatest teacher, failure is,” says wise Master Yoda. And he’s absolutely right. Failure is as much an experience as an event: one that changes us and molds us into the people we become. The same is true for writers. Writers should use their failures (disappointments, feelings of betrayal, etc..) as an advantage, to create more plausible characters and scenarios for the plot.

The importance of boredom is indrectly said by Yoda.
Writers need to fail to learn from their mistakes, but unless they get bored they may never learn the lessons from their past failures, resulting in more terrible novels.

However, writers will be incapable of succeeding where they previously failed if they do not give themselves the chance to learn from their past mistakes. The perfect time for introspection is when one is bored. The importance od boredom is underlined by the fact that we can assess our failures at our own pace, and work out how to put them right for in the novel.

5 – Crack On With Your Objective

Boredom does not just breed creativity. It also breeds frustration. Frustration can compel writers to plonk their backsides onto a chair and write. No two ways about it.

Conclusion

Christopher Nolan has a point: boredom is imperative in fulfilling one’s objective, whether it be for creative thinking or actually writing the damn novel itself. Imagine if someone (or God) removed boredom from the world. Do you think the quality of storylines would drop as a result?

Paul

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2 comments

  1. It’s about damn time someone said this. Writers, more than perhaps anyone else, need time to let ideas simmer and percolate in the subconscious, not just the conscious mind. It doesn’t do that if we unplug it so we can play games on our phones at the bus stop (or whatever) to alleviate boredom. In truth, I’m rarely bored for long — it takes little time for me to segue into thinking about stories and plots and characters, just as you describe in your excellent article 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comment J.S. Menefee! I am glad you agree. What you say is absolutely correct – we writers do need time to unwind and let ideas simmer. We can’t just be on our phones or computer games every time we have nothing to do.

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