This year was going to be different. Every year I promised to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and every year November slipped by with me barely putting any words down on paper. Not this year though. I had my story idea, my outline and notes. I even had a whole Chrome window dedicated only to my NaNoWriMo story. I was ready.
By November 10, I’d written a grand total of zero words. This November was going to be like every other one.
I was talking to my brother about the problem. We were talking about the various stories in our heads, and I went into my regular lament.
“We have such good ideas bro, why don’t we have anything finished?”
“Because writing is boring,” he replied.
Hearing him say that was a revelation. I’ve always enjoyed what other people consider boring things- watching the news, Star Trek, role playing videogames and other low-key activities. But those activities don’t bore me.
Writing, though, actually does bore me. There’s a lot of excitement in sitting down at a computer and banging out an essay that I’ve been churning in my head for weeks. Where I get bored is when I have to work at it. Stories are much harder than essays for me, and I find myself staring at a blank screen when I try to write fiction.
Looking at nothing bores me, but that’s what writing is. It’s the process of staring at a blank screen with dedication and focus, even as nothing comes to mind. It’s staring at a full screen when I’m lucky, looking for the bad words, the poor ideas and the darlings to kill. The act of putting words on a page, the most exciting part, is the part writers spend the least time on. The rest of it makes me bored, but it’s the necessary work to change words on a page into something coherent and, if I’m fortunate, something good.
Hearing my brother say that he found writing boring too let me know that I wasn’t crazy for being uninterested in doing the thing I love. It also helped me realize that being bored is part of the process. No one has fun all the time in their profession of choice, and many people don’t even have fun most of the time. That conversation helped me to reset my expectations for my writing process: it’s going to suck, but it has to suck.
I’m now learning to approach writing as the long, tedious process that it is, instead of the furious flashes of brilliance I’ve characterized it as. I don’t want to make writing sound like a painful process (I hate the quotes where writers talk about writing as a grueling or destructive process because it definitely shouldn’t feel that way), but writing is boring. Now, I’m prepared to be bored.