In Praise of Dull Holidays

This began life as a series of letters to my partner.


My darling, I have never felt the drive to write to you more.
When I am released from my duties
I am tearing through pages of paper like a hungry
street urchin at a buffet.

I understand it now.
These writers who excursed to beautiful, desolate places to write their books
did not so for inspiration,
or to be diverted,
but precisely for the
divine boredom
a terrible holiday can give you,
where to dance a flight of fancy across a page
becomes the truly thrilling thing it ought to be.
I would recommend it to all struggling writers.
Perhaps I should do it every year.

Writers –
book a holiday
to get that writing done that you so desperately need to.

But book it somewhere dreadful.

Book the most teeth-grindingly dull thing you can think of –
a place whose activities,
and clientèle
make you want to roll your eyes
and wither into a husk at the very thought.

Dread it,
dread the mundanity of this place before you book it.
And book in advance –
give your mind plenty of time to think up
more and more terrible iterations of this
crushingly beige place.

Ideally, go under duress –
let it be a work holiday,
or some sort of family obligation.

And I know it’s getting harder and harder to do,
but try and book somewhere with terrible phone service,
and a Wifi that is so patchy it’s more hassle trying to use it than not.

tell a friend about this terrible place you’re going to,
someone who can delight in the horror of it with you.
Demand their pity.
aloud with them,
over a cup of tea,
the devastating plateaus of boredom that await you.
Beg them to put you out of your misery now.
Detail to them your wishes
should you be kidnapped by the backwater locals of whatever
Godforsaken corner of the country you find yourself in.

And then
when you go off on this holiday,
write that person every day.

Even if you cannot post it to them at the time –
in fact,
it’s almost better to save these letters and
deliver them in bulk,
by hand,
after the holiday.

Make real for them the horrors you imagine.
Describe to them the flavour of your boredom,
the texture of your ennui.
Share with them your pleasant surprises,
secret friends,
and the little things keeping you sane.

Make a game of it and make it ridiculous –
find a new theme or style for each day,
and write them
letters from prison,
chapters of noir,
Gothic memoriam poetry,
or high fantasy re-imaginings of your day.

For me it is like the opening of floodgates –
once I start writing like this, it’s hard to stop, it’s so much fun.
Look at me now –

I should in bed
and I am writing to you
by lamplight
with the rain
hammering against the windows
because my spirits are too high
to be contained, and
the words bloom
fat and abundant in my head,
and if I don’t harvest the blooms now
they’ll have withered by morning,
or their scent will have changed unalterably.

Maybe it will not work for all writers,
but it works for me
and so must work for some:

Book a holiday you actively dread for its lack of stimulating activity,
and go with no one you love.
Embrace that fecund boredom
so rare now
in our world of screens and super-normal stimuli,
and watch your mind
make its own shapes for your delight.

It may not be writing,
but I am certain
the activity you fall to
in those bleak and pulseless moments
is one of your wellsprings of true joy,
and is worth discovering.

Be well.

Be bored!

Be brilliant.


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