Shannon Stacey

Deliberate boredom

Toward the end of last year, I was reading Roni Loren’s review of the book Deep Work by Cal Newport and one line really stuck with me.

Our subconscious mind works out answers to things when we’re bored or doing something relaxing.

I was crazy-busy at the time, so I didn’t pay much attention to the words simmering in the melting pot, but something else I read before the new year (I don’t remember what) prompted me to go back and read the blog post—and that line—again.

I realized my mind is never bored.

And right now, you’re probably thinking “oh look, another author saying you have to shut off social media to get shit done”. Nope. There’s a good chance you won’t ever see me being that author.

This is about off-line time. If it’s about anything that can be easily summed up in one word, it’s streaming. I was first published in 2005 and I can remember those first years pretty well. (Because, you know, it was only ten or so years ago.)

We always joke that the best ideas come to us while we’re showering or driving or cleaning the dryer vent (I’ll have to take people’s word on that one), but it’s actually true. The hours away from the computer, doing housework or commuting or whatever, were when I sorted out my story in those days. While driving, I’d tune out the commercials and songs I don’t like on the radio and figure out the heroine’s backstory. While doing the dishes, I’d plot out the big action scene. When I sat down at the computer to write, my subconscious had been hard at work and I had story to put on the page.

Now? There are no radio commercials and songs I don’t like because I have a constantly curated playlist of current favorites on my phone. I sing in my Jeep, to every song. My iPad travels around the house with me, streaming TV episodes I want to catch up on or favorite movies to keep me company. In my house, washing the dishes takes the same amount of time as a show with no commercials. What a coincidence! Seriously, the other day, I carried my iPad from the chore I’d been doing to the litter box, so I could keep watching my show while I scooped.

Other than a quick shower, there are literally no minutes in the day when my brain is not actively engaged and processing incoming content. So when I sit down at the computer and open my manuscript, I shouldn’t be surprised when the subconscious/muse/girls in the basement just sit back and say “What? Ain’t got nothin’ for ya today, dollface.” (Apparently my subconscious mind is a gin joint. IDEK.)

So I’m trying to leave the iPad behind as I do all those menial chores this year. It’s a process, so I’m having mixed results. When I go into the kitchen to clean, my brain looks something like an overactive black Lab puppy who thinks he’s going to the dog park—oh boy oh boy oh boy—and retraining is hard. Sometimes I cave.

But this is the year I learn to be bored again.

2 comments to “Deliberate boredom”

  1. library addict
      · January 12th, 2017 at 3:01 pm · Link

    This sounds like a solid plan. Good luck.

  2. Ruby Norwood
      · January 13th, 2017 at 7:56 pm · Link

    Good Luck with your plan!!!

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