21st Century Brontë #24 by Brontë Bettencourt
The Value of Boredom
Whenever I tell someone that I will be driving to visit my mom, who lives three and a half hours away from me, I actually get condolences, as if I confessed something tragic.
“Ugh, how boring!” they say.
I don’t see driving as a bad thing. I am lucky enough to have a car.
Lately the trips to my mother’s house have been more frequent since my grandpa recently had to move in with her. I drive south and back for seven hours total on weekends, to help my family with this the transition.
Indeed, the trip is boring.
Florida is flat, with tall grass and electric poles stretching for miles. And miles. And miles. And–
The highlight sometimes consists of a gradual bend in the road or the excitement of construction.
My friend Grant joins me when the trip falls on holiday breaks or long weekends. But lately I’ve been driving alone due to the frequency of the trips.
I actually prefer driving alone, at times (no offense, Grant).
To pass the time, I could listen to YouTube videos, but that’s an extreme demand on my data plan. I could call people, but conversation gets difficult after half an hour. And I’m up to date with all of my podcasts, especially The Drunken Odyssey.
But I enjoy being in a small, enclosed space and working on a task that doesn’t require much brainpower. My mind can wander imaginatively, without the pressure of adding words to a page because I can’t generate a physical product without becoming a driving hazard. (I did try once, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other blindly scribbling on my squirming notebook on my lap). The thoughts are less focused on creating useable content, and more on keeping myself entertained.
One of my creative writing professors, David James Poissant, stated that in order to create, the artist has to allow himself or herself to feel bored. If the mind is constantly bombarded with other creations, it’s difficult to conceptualize anything new. A lot of the time I have to remind myself that I enjoy writing. During and even after my undergraduate years, the only goal seems to be turning out product, which would be nice, if that were happening more. But driving long distances help me shift the focus from reward to enjoyment.
I decided that I wanted to be a writer in fourth grade. On that day, the teacher was particularly nice to me, asking me to write a welcome note to those who would be visiting the classroom for a project. The teacher, who scolded me nearly every day for playing with markers in my desk instead of listening to the lesson, was asking me to create something.
The teacher later announced to the class that I was the only student in the school to earn a perfect score on the FCAT writing exam. The class applauded, and the teacher looked at me with a sense of pride. My mother and Grandpa were so proud, and I received an award signed by the president of the United States, which even to my nine-year-old mind was a pretty big deal.
I had to write that essay. I didn’t write with the intention of getting a perfect score. I just wrote about why my grandpa would be a great teacher, a topic that I cared about deeply. Public success was then only part of the reason why I chose to be a writer.
To me all that excess energy of playing in my desk had an outlet. And I was apparently good at it.
Now, I don’t play with markers. There are no looming deadlines (except for this damned blog). But whether stranded at a desk or in a car the ideas definitely flow when boredom can manifest.
I’ve developed an idea for a story because I frequent the highways. During one trip I happened to be on the road later than I anticipated. The lights of the Turnpike illuminated the sloping roads. Semi-trucks chugged along, gargantuan size intimidating everyone into the other lanes. Mustangs zipped around cars slower than 90mph.
I thought of how awesome it would be to skate on these roads if they were deserted, to have the wind whipping at my hair and clothes as I hurtled past the reflectors. Then I added logistics into the idea, like why a person couldn’t just drive, and a human’s durability against high speeds.
I arrived at My mother’s house eager to write about a high-speed, post-apocalyptic battle on a worn, suspended highway in the dead of the night. Mom’s lecture about late-night driving was a small price to pay for an awesome writing session.
Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34, Episode 221) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.