Tuesday, 29 January 2008


I had a fascinating conversation last night with a creative friend, an artist.

I was grumbling (I do that well…) about the constant noise in my head. The ‘need’ to work at editing, critiquing, running The Workhouse, planning workshops, running workshops, reading and feeding back to students, debating writing craft on a couple of other writing sites on the web, meeting up with my face to face writing group, making time to have one to ones with writing colleagues, embarking on learning about poetry with David,

Etc etc.

And what am I NOT doing?

You’re there. I am not writing. Other than twiddles, flashes, the occasional longer short story.

Then, a ‘lightbulb moment’, applicable to me, and to a million kids, or more, and to every person who wants to be creative in any medium, but who fills their time because it's meant to be ‘a good thing’ so to do.

My friend told me of a talk she’d heard from children’s author Shirley Hughes, in which she bewailed the ‘loss of boredom’.

Boredom is bad, these days. Don’t let the kids be bored or they’ll do something dreadful. Don’t ‘do nothing’ yourself… you’ll get bored, and that’s awful. It’s a killer.

But Shirley Hughes was arguing the opposite.

We NEED to accept periods of ‘nothing’. Because it’s in those periods that creativity is at work at its most potent, and will bubble something to the surface, when you least expect it.

Think about it. Don’t ideas seem to pop up when you go for a quiet walk? Or when you are half asleep, in the early morning, or late at night? Or when you are driving? Ironing?

Kids need to daydream. Not have their every waking hour filled with noise, image, chatter. That leaves no room for the imagination to work.

Perfect examples:

Me, and my rushing around ‘being a writer’, actually stopping the process in its tracks!

A boy I met recently who wouldn’t accept that he could create a dialogue exchange between classical characters, because the film says….

A younger boy who got stuck in a storyline, and left the room. I thought he was frustrated, and had given up.

He came back ten minutes later. “I’ve got it! I know what happens next!”

“Wow,” I said. “What’s the secret?”

“I went for a walk…..”


Jim Murdoch said...

I don't see boredom as a state per se, more a reaction to a condition where nothing is happening. When nothing is happening we have the choice to allow nothing to continue happening or we can make something happen. If there's something going on all the time then the choice is not ours. Choice is a great thing.

There was a programme on TV only last night talking about how today's children are never faced with that decision, be bored or get creative, because there's always something, some biddley-beep flashing gadget demanding their attention. Granted most kids need to explore boredom, it is the easier of the two options, to see it's not all it's cracked up to be but eventually they will get off their butts and invent something to keep themselves amused.

Very valid post. Enjoyed it.

Vanessa G said...

Hello Jim,

Thanks for dropping by.

I would love to get back occasionally to the state where I could sit and daydream for hours. HOURS.

Not 'make something happen'. Because it was already happening inside my head.

I can find that when I go to my writer's bolt hole in Ireland. Not so easy at home!

happy writing.