The Difficulty Of Amusing Oneself

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Depression sucks the words out of you. Because the entire world is made dull and lacklustre by it, life become one endless series of dissatisfying days, everything you do or think or say turned into worthless, cliched junk dropping from between your lips like counterfeit coins. What does it matter, who cares? Fortunately for me as a writer, it has quite the opposite effect when it comes to creativity. Depression makes everything boring, which makes one slightly more motivated, during moments when the fug of lassitude thins, to make life more interesting —and one of the best ways to do this is through telling stories. Interesting stories. Fantastical, strange and wondrous tales.

Now, this brings its own share of problems—nothing is easy!—and it’s something I have never really had to chance to discuss with anyone about it before. So why not write it on my blog? Really, that’s my solution for almost every mental quandary these days; I always feel much better after sharing pieces of myself online, it’s quite the release. The problem is this: because my desire for escapism is so deep and extreme, anything that veers the slightest bit towards reality bores me to bits. The slightest bit. Basically, what this means is that I—and I think this is the sole reason creative people feel so isolated from others and the general humdrum of society—have a very, very, very low tolerance for boredom. Almost non-existent, really. Why else do you think writers like to escape into their imagination so often? Because it’s so much more interesting than reality, that’s why! Reality is so incredibly dissatisfying, and these days much of the films and books saturating the market recycles the same old tropes and concepts so the world of imagination, once so rich and lovely, is now growing just as boring. What’s more—and this is the cardinal rule of novelty—things get more boring the more you are exposed to them. It’s a common sense rule, but nevertheless quite astonishing when you put it into practice, apply it to real-world experiences.

Say, reality, for instance. Now, the world we live in is a very fascinating place. Life on earth is bizarre, and we don’t really understand anything, will never be able to see the whole picture, only glimpses and glimmers—yet because we see things like our own bodies and the sun everyday, we grow desensitized to the great miracles they are, and find them ordinary, and, at least when we’re not actively pondering them, boring. Likewise, with creative works, the more you are exposed to something, the more dull it becomes. Let’s take one of the most delightful and creative animated movies in the history of the world: Howl’s Moving Castle, directed by the wonderful and brilliant Hayao Miyazaki. The first time I watched this, I was stunned and flabbergasted by the beauty on the screen. In particular, I recall Howl’s bedroom, with its quietly shifting pieces and glinting intricacy, so detailed and beautiful and wonderful I could only gaze in pure awe and delight at the screen. However, if you were to watch that scene every morning before you went off to work or school or to your desk, it would lose its magic. It would become ordinary.

As a writer, this effect is extraordinarily problematic because with whatever I am writing, I am constantly having to work hard at keeping things interesting for myself. This is where the low tolerance for boredom comes in. While others might be able to still find Howl’s bedroom magical after six or so viewings, after the second viewing, I have already integrated the scene into the fabric of reality so it becomes no more wondrous than the sight of cars on the streets. My threshold or desire for novelty is ridiculously high, endless, really, which means I find it very hard to keep myself from getting bored. I feel as though there are two people inside of me, one the teacher standing in front of the board, the one churning out the creative work and ideas, and the other the child, sitting at a little table and chair in front of her, the one who gasps and cries at the magic and wonders of the universe being unraveled on the blackboard. The moment I lose the kid’s interest, the piece of writing I am working on is done, over, finished—or at least until the teacher wracks her brain and finds a more creative way to transmit the lesson. Basically, every second, every minute, every day, when I write, or daydream, which are both almost the same thing, I am constantly struggling to amuse myself.

This is the true wellspring of creativity, I think: dissatisfaction, and boredom; and while luckily I experience enough of these two emotions to last several lifetimes, it also means I bore myself very easily. What seems like a wonderful, fantastical idea, after much pondering, turns dull and bland, and I find myself casting it aside with a huff of exasperation. I wrote an entire story—well over 12,000 words—only to find I couldn’t edit and polish it, not out of laziness, but boredom with what I had written. Having lived through the character’s experiences once, I could not rewrite and live through their experiences again; my brain required something new and fresh to feed upon. Such incidents have happened multiple times. Forty, maybe fifty times. Maybe more.

My Holy Grail, then, as someone who suffers from this condition—an extreme allergic reaction to a lack of novelty—is to find an idea, a concept, a story, a book to write which remain interesting no matter how many times I write it or re-read it. No small task. In essence, I have to captivate and amuse for the duration of a 100,000 words, or more, the creature most difficult to astound and delight in the world: myself. With, I might add, one piece of work, one work I shall have to read again and again, and fix, and rewrite and twiddle with endlessly. I have to—to find something complex and interesting enough to fall in love with for the many months or even years I shall be working on it, wonderful enough to satisfy the distaste in myself for all things real, true and existing even though the base material I have to work with is reality, as it is all I know. I have to come up with something psychedelic. Strange. Something.

Sigh. Wish me luck.

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2 thoughts on “The Difficulty Of Amusing Oneself

  1. “Having lived through the character’s experiences once, I could not rewrite and live through their experiences again;”
    I was having a hard time connecting with your article but I decided to stick to it. I don’t easily get bored because there is always some lovely fantasy I am playing in my head. However when you wrote the sentence above, I finally understood. OMG yes! I used to make Youtube videos, and after they were edited, I couldn’t watch them. They were just too boring. The reason I could edit it was because I wanted it to be presentable but the content was not upgraded or improved.
    My recommendation is to edit from end to beginning and only for grammatical errors, then publish! A story on paper is better than a story left in the mind, no matter how flawed it is.

    Thanks for your articles I enjoy reading them. 🙂

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