Few creative emotions are as unpleasant as seemingly unbreakable boredom.
You know what I mean. You've got that favorite mug of lukewarm coffee, a cat or dog or perhaps both tucked into a sleeping ball on the couch or rug. You write, and it feels mechanically good. Technically sound. The syntax varies. You noun-verb. The unexpected imagery pops out in the right places. But something is lacking. Too ordinary. Predictable.
I’ve noticed that this happens periodically, but it happens because I need it to. I’ve gone on cruise control. My work feels like a body without a heart. Sometimes, I’ll just sink into the plush, pink chair in my dining room study and skim through a pile of books until something catches my attention. As much as I’d like to be the sort of person who sits down with a single book and surrenders all attention to it, I’m usually reading between three and five books at a time over the course of weeks to even months. For a long time, I thought something had to be wrong with me; after all, doesn’t that long-term multitasking mean that I’m not getting the full experience? That I’m not head-over-heels, emotionally immersed in whatever happens to be sitting atop my nightstand book pile? I tell myself that “at least I’m doing something creative, even if I’m just reading", as if the productivity aspect of it actually matters. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. You don’t have to crank out a divine number of words or pages per day to be a writer. It’s OK to be creative without always creating.
I’ve also grown aware of how I struggle to sit with the discomfort of not creating. In fact, I’m guilty of trying to remedy this perceived rut and stewing in feelings of internal blame. As if I should be writing beautiful things and creating art every single day in a way that’s considered “good enough”. This trapped-in-the-mundane feeling is a shrunken sweater, tight against my skin, and all I can think about is how to stop the itching. Why are we, as people and especially as creatives, so irrevocably programmed to problem-solve? Can we learn to steep ourselves in the restless feelings that come with the seasons of growth and existence as writers? This isn’t to say that writer’s block is bullshit; it’s to say that it’s organic. Consider it the tension that settles before a shift.
I’ve come to acknowledge and accept that my creative expression will ebb and flow. Like seasons, there will be times in which my language will bloom and spread gracefully and naturally. Other times, I will be wringing out my soul, trying to get a few drops of anything substantial on paper and have little success. However, something happens when I write my way through these sensations, allowing myself to be fully honest about it: I understand it more, and thus feel more inspired. If anything, the rut lets me challenge my own lazy habits. When I'm creatively stagnant, I work with more patience and stubbornness. That gives me the momentum to go through another creative growth spurt, meaning I’ll probably obsess over something weird and minute for awhile, or I’ll be in “play mode”, which is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable part of writing. I’ll throw myself down some untapped Google loophole, mining veins of internet pages just to pocket words and phrases and ideas and objects that feel too important to simply pass by. And because the human brain orients itself around patterns, the voyage into the web eventually becomes a poetic game of connect-the-dots, in which an answer is then held up to the work I’ve already created, like mirrored puzzle pieces. Another motif is born. The magic never really leaves. Sometimes, it just rests for awhile.