Not in your writing, but in your life.
Be Boring is Rule Number 9 out of 10 in Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative by Austin Kleon. And when I read this rule, I sighed with relief, because my day-to-day life is a snore – to everybody but me.
I’ve been writing a novel for going on three years, and the end is in sight. But the way I’ve arrived at this juncture is by living a very quiet, ordinary, life. . As Kleon explains, “It’s the only way to get the work done.”
He quotes Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary:
Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
This is not, of course, how Hemingway and Fitzgerald worked, but their biographies compete with their work, and they burned out early from alcoholism (Fitzgerald) and suicide (Hemingway). Not the way I want to go.
Kleon makes a few, simple, recommendations on how to be boring – and be vibrantly creative:
- Take care of yourself: eat right, get sleep, brush your teeth.
- Keep your day job, because it gives you “money, a connection to the world, and a routine.”
- Keep a calendar: plan when you’re going to write and what – and stick to it.
- Keep a logbook: this is a way to hold yourself accountable and also keep track of your work. (See Accounting for Your Time)
- Marry well: Kleon says this may be the most important decision you ever make, which is very old school. There’s a lot to be said for marriage, and I’ve been lucky in mine, but marriage is hard, and not for everyone. That said, the partners, lovers, friends, and/or relatives who see you through thick and thin all deserve books dedicated to them.
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog, know that I rarely contribute to the Saturday Edition, where contributors recap what they’ve written during the past week and what they’ve read. I don’t contribute because I’d write the same thing week after week: Worked on my novel this week.
It’s what I’ve been doing, week after week for going on 130 weeks – and counting. And you know what? It pays off. I have a good book that’s getting better every day I sit down to work on it, which is at least five days a week.
In the end, my biography will not be a compelling one – and that’s okay with me. It’s my stories that count.
Deborah Lee Luskin lives a boring life in southern Vermont, where she writes fiction, radio commentaries, and editorial columns. Between paragraphs, she walks, gardens, cooks, plays the piano badly, worries, and stares out the window – among other activities. Find her on the web at www.deborahleeluskin.com