The Boredom Bullet

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There comes a time in every project – be it writing, work, or something else – where you have been working on it for so long that you can’t summon up a single vestige of interest. If you’ve been hemming for three days straight, no matter how beautiful the dress you just don’t want to hem any more. If you’ve been writing a research report for several weeks, even if it’s your favourite subject you hit a point where you can’t stand to look at another journal. If you’ve been composing a story for months, there comes a time when you have no interest in putting another word to paper.

There’s plenty of advice out there on how to deal with this. Most of it boils down to ‘remember why you loved the project in the first place’, and that’s not bad advice. But it doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. Yes, I loved this story when I sat down to tell it. It did excite me. But I’ve written all the parts that excited me (or at least roughed them out) and now we’re down to the graft parts.

There’s inherent risks in knowing your characters too well, too. If you know every flaw and wart, it can be easy to sit back and think ‘she’s horrible – I don’t want to spend any more time in her head’. Or just plain over exposure. I imagine J.K. Rowling was pretty sick of Harry by the end, and desperate to move onto something new.

This is no different from writers’ block, really, just in a different form. But it is a bit harder to get past. Writers’ block can be broken by an idea, or a sentence, or talking to someone. Getting past the boredom comes down to either taking a break from the project (and perhaps never coming back), or ploughing on through and hoping that you can put some spark into those scenes during editing later. Either way, there’s a risk that it will kill the project.

I haven’t found a solution. The ‘remember why you loved it’ advice has never helped – yes, I still remember why I loved it but I’ve done the cool bits and I’m bored now.  My usual coping method is to leave it for a week or so, and then reread some of the early stuff written in the white heat of creative enthusiasm. If they’re any good, I’ll go back to it. If they aren’t, well… it was probably time I stopped anyway.

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