Blessed Are the Bored

I’ve come through the pandemic (not that we are through it) feeling a lack of creative momentum relative to what I enjoyed five years ago. I’m having great fun with the Mischief in Mayfair series, and the side  project is pair of novellas I’ll publish with Erica Ridley next spring–novellas are always a frolic–but the queue behind those two projects is not full of characters clamoring for their HEAs.

I have some ideas, though in the past few months story premises have  been slower to emerge, and my response to them has been less enthusiastic. Then I came across this article, about our collective loss of creativity and its fairly obvious causes. (Nod to Austin Kleon’s newsletter, and he IS creative, and the quotes are from his blog.) We are overscheduled and over-screen-timed, such that our minds have no time to breathe, wander, or explore how to connect distant dots. The lack of unstructured time has been getting worse for decades, and technology has accelerated the trend.

My Rogues to Riches series started one day when I was staring off into space, thinking about the glut of “duke books.” (Mind you, I love me a good duke book.) I asked myself: What is the farthest, most distant, different man from a duke? Being a lawyer, the answer that came to me was: A convicted murderer awaiting execution. No power, no hope, his privileges all down the jakes if any there ever were.

So how, I wondered, can I connect those two seemly distant dots? And off I went…

But questions like that can’t occur to me if I’m ALWAYS playing Solitaire, Cribbage, Hearts, Spider, or jigsaw puzzles, all of which I do on my computer much more now than I did eighteen months ago. They can’t occur to me if I’m walking on the tread desk instead of in new surrounds. They can’t occur to me if I’m taking fewer showers because I never leave the house (sorry for the TMI,  but showers are magic for creativity). They can’t occur to me if I’m never in conversation with people who think differently from me.

And the pandemic has checked every one of those boxes in thick, stinky black magic marker. Oh. Oh, really.

I did not get into this low-creative RPMs situation over night, and I probably won’t pull out of it just because I went for a three-mile walk today (saw a deer!), but I can work at reversing the direction of my inertia, and hope some interesting premises sneak up on me in the shower soon (preferably involving lonely dukes or fellows of that ilk).

Has your relationship to screen time changed as a result of the pandemic? Are there ways the road back to normal isn’t following quite the path you’d envisioned? I will add three commenters to my ARC list for A Rogue in Winter!

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25 comments on “Blessed Are the Bored

  1. Two blogs in one day! Now that is a happy event to deal with MY boredom.

    I have noticed several changes in my screen time………..both computer and TV. I have not put the TV on in more than 6 weeks. I used to watch very little TV, but I have been a devotee of the NBC Nightly News since before the Tom Brokaw days. (Remember John Chancellor?) But the news simply became “too much”. I can wait an hour, then check the NBC app on my phone, and only watch the stories that interest me. I can avoid the stories that seem to do bad things for my blood pressure!

    At the same time, I am spending way too much time on the computer. I read part of the NYTimes online every day, although I admit that this behavior has all the negative effects on the news stories I no longer watch on TV. I read travel blogs although my (international) travel days are all behind me. I am making myself limit my computer game time as well.

    I am spending a huge amount of time reading. I try to do a pickup at the library once a week so that I have “real” books, as reading on my kindle or phone is back to too much screen time.

    As soon as the weather cooperates, I plan on getting back to walking.

    Again, welcome back to Blogland!


  2. Nice to have you back Grace.I missed the blog but it’s good to be sharing with the blog team our summer happenings.This summer for me has been sad and full of emotion and grief.My two best friends of many years have suffered.One surrendered to cancer and the other to vascular dementia.Both within weeks.When we retired years ago we decided to enjoy our remaining lives traveling,meeting new people lunching out,movies,walking around the countryside,cooking for each other.We had raised our families,lost husbands so we made our plans.We had some good happy years.I have the memories and the photos.I am feeling stranded and lost at the moment,also guilty that my health is fairly good.One left out of three.We made plans but of course we know things don’t stay the same and things change.So I guess I am answering both blogs this week.We make plans but they can be fragile and come to an end or take us on another route.Which can take us some where else.I’m not ready for that yet I’m to raw.So getting back to normal will come but just not now.Getting back on the horse in life is what counts eventually.

    • Brenda, I’m so sorry to read of your losses. That is a tough horse to get back on, but I admire your determination and hope that, though it will take time, you find your equilibrium again. If it helps you feel less unmoored and alone, know that someone on the other side of the world is rooting for you. Take care

  3. Welcome back, Grace!

    I was doing a lot less screen time deliberately, before Covid. It definitely crept back up during the lockdown. I’ve tried to remain fairly unplugged, but with Zoom get togethers and FaceTiming family, it’s been hard to keep my numbers low. I think I’m still spending less screen time than prepandemic though, and I’m happy about that. It’s much easier to not get caught up in comparisons or consumerism with limited social media!

  4. Sadly, I do find that I am spending way more time in front of various screens than I did pre-pandemic, however, I have also been working on a 36 year delayed project!!! When my daughter was around 2, I purchased a kit to make a Victorian dollhouse and carriage house for her…silly me, I actually thought that while caring for 2 kids under 4 that I would have the time to cut out and assemble hundreds of tiny plywood pieces into a house that would then require painting and decorating! When we were quarantining during the first, second and third Covid surges, I came across the kit and decided to start working on it. It has been my salvation, when screens threaten to take over my life! Now that we are fully vaccinated, we have relaxed somewhat regarding grocery shopping (always masked) and the occasional dinner outside at local restaurants but my obsession with the miniature house has remained! My husband received a 3D printer for his birthday (from me….no ulterior motives, really!) and I have spent some screen time searching for dollhouse furniture to decorate my mini house. I remind him that decorating the mini house is cheaper than decorating the full size version!!!

  5. I have been reading on my IPad more this summer. I am catching up on books that I have bought and have tried a couple new authors ( gotta love Bookbub). I don’t play games on the computer because I sit in front of it 8+ hours working. I love to close it down at 530!

    There’s been a lot of confusion about return to work. I am pretty sure I may have to make a guest appearance once or twice in the Fall. And then in early 2022, a hybrid schedule would be implemented. I will feel less stressed when the plan is communicated.

    I fell behind on my review writing when my corgi Rose passed. Rose was diagnosed with cancer 11 months before she died. We managed her care with meds and Rose was determined to walk and “ go to work with me “ everyday. My schedule was upended when she passed. I miss her quiet companionship. My goal has been to review 2-3 books each week- am making progress.

    Am glad you are blogging again…2 blogs in one day! Welcome back!
    Keep cool!

  6. I find that some of my most creative thoughts come when I am driving and not listening to music. I suppose I have time to listen to myself then.

    No, my screen time has not changed significantly. I worked from home for a while, but I have been back in the office since last October. I check emails every day, post to my Goodreads groups, and have a lively back and forth with one of my sisters via email. I live with my son and my husband, and that can get pretty lively too.

    These last two years have upended our lives, makes sense that your creativity would suffer. Sounds like you have a good handle on how to change that.

    FYI I just re-read Ashton and appreciated it so much more this time around. Helen the street urchin – wow.

  7. Definitely more screen time as a function of not being able to read or be on a computer while my eye healed. So YouTube on a big TV clear across a big room kept me sane. Much as I love audiobooks, there’s a limit to the chores I can think up that don’t require using my eyes to keep me busy while listening.

    I’m finally cleared to work my way through the stack of books waiting for me.

  8. I have been doing much more TV time but that happens every two years (Olympics!). But that will finish soon. Otherwise, I have been doing online jigsaw puzzles when I could be doing other things but just don’t have the oomph. But I don’t feel bored. In fact, my niece video-called last night because her kids were all off doing their own things and she was “bored.” I managed not to remind her that she has a whole lot more available to do than we did at her age (I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and not try to re-train everyone to my point of view, even when I’m right). I’m old enough that I’ve now decided to declare there is no such thing as “normal,” just whatever is happening now, and not to obsess (we’ll see how that actually works). I wish you good luck at getting back to your preferred state of being.

  9. I am not a big screen person (outside of reading that is) and that has gotten more pronounced as my required screen usage went up – my optional screen time fell off to almost none. I wish I could say I replaced it with an exciting new hobby, but I suppose I use it to rest. My need for time where I am just off (off duty, off-line, uninterrupted) has increased in the pandemic and if I had to name this rest time, I’d call it “plant watching” with a side of woolgathering. I’m so good at it, I can do it horizontal and stationary AND vertical and walking. (Sometimes I like to really mix it up and try statue watching at the museum – vertical and stationary and masked – I’m wild and crazy like that.) One might think this is making me a more creative person, but though I have peaks of curiosity while resting, I just have a pleasantly quiet mind in its gentle wanderings which I am content to enjoy as such a nice change from all the stress and information overload of daily life.

  10. Happy to get your take on the nature of things again. Thank you.

    I used to take a notebook to the laundromat when I did all the big bedding, mattress pads, duvets, sleeping bags etc. It was a cement block building with poor cell service, no internet. I used to fill pages with stuff I needed to do. Not creative, maybe, but something soothing about watching laundry go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round.

  11. Hi,
    Please refresh my memory. Where do I know Piert Sorenson from? He sounds familiar, but I can’t recall at the moment and it’s bothering me. LOL

  12. I’m glad to hear that you are doing well after the summer break! You asked two very good questions, Grace. I don’t think I’ve been having much more screen time than before the pandemic. Since I ‘retired’ before the pandemic hit, I was home more often and had more time to spend on email, and more importantly, ebooks. So, I had increased my screen time before the pandemic. I really don’t know what my expectations were for ‘normal’. After what we as a nation, no world, have been going through, I don’t know what normal is or will be anymore. Home is Texas – in the greater Austin area.An area that is back in stage 5 due to Delta. However, I am not currently there, so I don’t know how many places have reenstated masks mandates. I am up in Idaho on the other side of the Tetons from Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. There are businesses on the Wyoming side that have started requiring masks, as has the entire Parks system. Over here that hasn’t happened – not yet. We all thought things were going back to normal, yet not yet.

    • I wish could say that the politicization of the pandemic was at an end and that the political divide would close up. Sadly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  13. I’m concerned about how much more time I spend online. I also don’t know what I’m going to do about it as I like it. I don’t watch tv, but my husband figured out the remote and I watched some olympics, just the broadcast channels ‘cos we have never had cable. I even enjoyed the commercials. I’ve never watched YouTube until last Fall, and now I can’t stop. Gardening programs, watching people shop and sell vintage stuff. Crazy amount of time. My garden does look terrific though. The other thing now I think of it is I’ve done little to none cooking. Lots of salads.

    I just finished Miss Delightful and came to your blog to find out if you were still on *vacation*. Nice question for your readers, and got me thinking. Thank you.

  14. It IS difficult to keep up a steady output but I always think of Tom Petty when I get into a creative slump. May people think they know what his songs are about and then I read a biography where he talked about the ideas behind the songs. I, and many others, was wrong. So I decided to take a note out of his page and look at other people’s lives for my inspiration. There are so many people with so many personalities with so many experiences. The possibilities become infinite. Not all of them are interesting though. That is your genius. You make regular stories pop with emotion, introspection, and joy. I reread your books while awaiting your next. I’ve not changed screen time, I’ve stopped reading anything that has too much anxiety or tension. Rereading Will’s True Wish right now.

  15. I spend more time reading than ever. On quarantine now, exposed because grandson worked in an office with a moronic anti-vaxer. I hope she’s enjoying her time off, she exposed a lot of people due to her ignorance.

  16. Actually, I have put in less screen time. Shortly before the pandemic I had eased up on TV and thus the computer (I do both at once) but when I was laid off for 6 weeks, I got even less enthusiastic wasting my time on both. I went from never being home (work, babysitting and visiting my mom) to not doing anything. A good thing would have been cleaning and cleaning out my house but since I have always detested both, that never happened. Now I am working less hours, not babysitting as much, and sadly, my mom is no longer here. So I’ve done what I have always done to escape, read!!

  17. I had signed up for an online course to start mid March 2020. I spent the first five weeks of lockdown doing the coursework. It was on royal fashion from the Tudors to the Windsors. It was a good way to mark the days in the time when leaving the house was essentially not recommended. My yoga studio owner was doing online classes via Zoom within a week of having to close the studio. These things led to more screen time. I came out of the five week course knowing more about royal fashion including seeing a dress Queen Victoria wore. As the lockdown continued I lost weight and gained muscle tone from doing yoga every day. I started watching more news after PBS added a half hour program from BBC. And I spent hours online reading about the history of vaccines and everything available on the development of the coronavirus vaccines. I checked in with all my friends online and sent messages to my cousins in Canada and Germany, plus my friend in Rome. There was a point where she couldn’t leave her apartment for exercise and I was thankful that I could still walk my neighborhood every day the weather cooperated. I also read books from my library when I couldn’t go check out print books. I spent enjoyable time having chat threads with guest authors and other members in Facebook book groups. I even won a couple of books! They were shipped to my house. Online shopping became a challenge I was determined to succeed at. What used to take 30 minutes at a store to get all items required multiple websites. Amazon doesn’t offer everything. And then I had to wait for the items to be delivered. Several shipments disappeared around the pre-Christmas deluge.

  18. Yay! Time to get back into a a lovely blog-reading pattern!

    My screen time has increased for sure. Some of it good, but not always. I don’t know how to get back to pre-pandemic normal, but that really might not be possible. But, maybe I need not normal!

    Life has taken some difficult turns of late, so that is also making the road bumpier than I’d like.

  19. Hi Grace, first time poster for me. Your email caught my attention. The book sounds delightful…would love to be considered to receive an ARC.

    So, my screen time has changed during the pandemic. Less is more for me these days. I’m also a carer for my parents so it’s finding the right balance each day. I do enjoy watching game shows or escape to the country where I can relax. Saying that, we also watch a lot of the ‘news’, my dad is glued to the news which isn’t great, just more anxiety. Ok, back to more screen time, did I say less?… I am glued to three devices… My mobile phone, kindle and tablet. I feel I’ve got one in my hand most of the time, in between cooking and washing and going for drives with my parents. I also work part time. I love reading regency romance, big time, reading every day, very early morning is my routine how to fit it in, before Mum gets up. My motto these last few years, becoming a carer, and this goes for most things.. Enjoy the moments! Take care, Anne

  20. Being in health care, the core of my life did not change as I continued my daily life as it was. But the restrictions affected all those around me like my teenage daughter.
    Since she has psychological council.
    We had hope to see her back to her usual persona but the pandemic has once more affected our plan, no Halloween trip to the USA for her birthday.
    I now live from day to day as even long time planning is not enough.

  21. Yes! Yes!Yes! Exactly as you described time used compulsively. I have turned off TV, determinedly, news is my habit. There is no time for my favorite author website newsletters, too many websites.
    I still work out in the Hotspot. I’ve got long haul covid symptoms. I have been on painkillers first time in years, never wanted to take them, let alone for months. Reaction to new medical program that luckily few have faced. My legs were the worst, felt like ants are inside eating my flesh. Several medications later I’m able to handle most other problems because that one has dulled. I also couldn’t read my novels. Concentration would not allow more that posts to get thru fogged brain. With pain relief, I have managed 5 books, I’ve read 100 in year, before. Fog and fatigue and still attempting to hold down 40 hour week job. I earned my FMLA back because Covid used up that time, plus vacation and sick time. I’m the fixer, and naturally I want to fix me MOST! Mind is always on how. No Fix, at this time. All the data chunks do not help. So Yes, yes, yes I do see the problem. We all need safe time, where we can dwell in the relief of our passion. Dang! Did it again favorite author whirled this comment to a world of TMI.