I Was Creative In College Because I Was Really Fucking Bored

I Was Creative In College Because I Was Really Fucking Bored


I “studied” creative writing in college. This means that most of my time was spent reading short stories and writing even shorter stories and reading other peoples’ short stories and then being really mean to them in workshop, saying things like, “I don’t believe this. I’m not buying it. I don’t feel like this was developed enough.” And then when it was my turn to be workshopped I’d sit there quietly with a pencil and stare at my writing as I wrote down the shit people would say to me, nodding if I agreed. If I didn’t agree I’d look at the rug and pretend like it was the rug that was talking to me. I was confident on the outside, but I was obviously spending a great deal of my time looking for acceptance, hoping to hear that I was doing something right.

If there was one positive thing about this period of my life, it’s that it allowed me to be a huge creative weirdo. I took a lot of risks because, well, I was paying for school, and like any person paying for something, I felt as though I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. Teachers noticed that I was engaged, mostly because I’ve always been an intense student, and then they saw me take risks. The key to taking risks in college is being able to defend the inevitable stupidity that results from these risks. As a former high school debater, I thought I was very good at this. Whenever someone would say something like:

I just don’t feel like I understand who this character is, and everyone is having sex with each other and it just seems really… too much sex. That’s what this story is. It’s gratuitous. I enjoy the writing–I think you’re really funny!–but something about the way you write about sex bothers me. Do you know what I mean?

Usually what they meant is that sex made them uncomfortable and that they would never write about it themselves because it would reveal too much about their own sex life. But because the person being workshopped is supposed to sit quietly for the duration of the ‘shop, I would write down my thoughts, usually including words such as “that bitch” and “the long-haired brunette dummy sez” and then I’d make just a note or two about how to respond later. (I told you I was an intense student.)

I agree that this character might seem a little cold, but I meant for him to seem cold–some people are cold, you know?–and I can assure you that sometimes, at least in movies and in certain good books, people have lots and lots of sex, much like the sex I depicted in this story.

I think teachers enjoyed me because I was a defensive asshole whenever they couldn’t be. But I think there’s a larger moral to my collegiate story: I tried my damndest never to be boring. So much of life is achingly boring. Why make more of that shit? I took chances in college because I was really fucking bored. As an adult, it’s both easier and harder to be bored. You have to deal with many mundane adult things, which often feel stale. But you also have to deal with certain stressful adult things, and this is often not boring, at least not in the usual sense. Perhaps the key to being creative as an adult is letting the stress go, and instead focusing on how to get out of your rut. Focus on being as imaginative as you can possibly be. And make sure that your creative life makes people feel uncomfortable, and, more importantly, awake.

Jason Zabel apologizes if this was boring.

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