Hack Dad’s Revenge: Boredom

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Originally, this month’s column was supposed to be about earning money as a stay-at-home parent/writer. But, the thing is I’m pretty much doing everything on spec these days and I’ve pitched two articles, submitted a novelette, and a short satirical article to a humor website over the last six weeks, but I haven’t heard anything back from any of them. This is what happens when you’re not under contract, though. You spend a lot of time writing and hoping someone will buy some of it. So instead of talking about earning the old greenbacks, I thought I’d tackle the writer’s second greatest nemesis: Boredom (And I promise I'll be back with the money thing a couple of months down the road).


Here’s my average day:

Alarm goes off at five, I pull on my pants, stumble downstairs, flip on the coffee, go and smoke, wash up at the kitchen sink afterwards, choke down a half dozen pills that keep my heart from exploding, drink a glass of water straight down, do the same thing with my coffee, and then sit on the couch and fuck around on social media for ten minutes and check the news. If I’m lucky, I’ll just get to sit in the quiet of the pre-dawn house for at least an hour. I might even get to read a hundred or so pages of whatever book I’m reviewing. But most of the time, the baby wakes up fifteen or twenty minutes after I do. She has a sixth sense that knows when I’m up and moving around, so she wants to be moving around, too.

Let’s face it, kid shit is boring. The programing, the games, the books, the toys, all of it—it’s lame.

Once I hear the baby start babbling, I make her bottle, pull her playpen to the center of the great room, then trudge upstairs, grab her out of the crib, change her out of her two-pound urine-logged diaper (we’ve been lucky with the wee one, she can pretty much sleep through anything and she’s slept through the night since she was four-months-old), then head downstairs, plop her in the playpen with a bottle in her mouth, and click on Sesame Street. This pretty much keeps her occupied while I shotgun another cup of coffee, run back upstairs, wake up my oldest and Mrs. Rawson and grab the dogs. (You would think this would be one of the first things I do, but the dogs are lazy old fucks and they make a hell of a racket when they run down the stairs, so they get woken up along with Mrs. Rawson.) Everyone gets out the door within an hour, and by that time, the baby’s ready to be out and about, too.

If I’m lucky, the kiddo will be really into her blocks or her little people or Elmo and I’ll get more time with the review book. But most of the time, she’s wanting me to play blocks with her, or watch Elmo, or have a dance party. (She’s super into TV On The Radio and Wilco, and can boogie to both for hours.) Then comes breakfast, then comes the park to chase around the soccer ball, then back home for lunch and nap. Depending on how wiped out I am, I either write or nap, too. I choose writing most of the time.

Kid wakes up after two hours.

Kid watches Daniel Tiger while I spend more time with the review book.

Then the big kid gets home from school.

Then Mrs. Rawson comes home from the office.

Then I make dinner and we eat.

Then the baby gets a bath, gets put in bed.

Then the family retreats to their various corners of the house.

I go to my office, turn on some music, smoke a little weed, and then write until I’m set to pass out.

I lock up, make coffee for the morning, turn off the lights, go to bed, and then repeat.

Day after day after day after day after day after day.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. Because the thing is, like I’ve said before, this shit just isn’t a life, it’s a job, and all jobs get a little tedious and you can become bored out of your fucking mind.


Let’s face it, kid shit is boring. The programing, the games, the books, the toys, all of it—it’s lame. The thing is, none of it is meant for you and your thirty or forty-year-old brain. You’re just forced to experience it all with them with a dumb smile on your face. There have been days when I’ve watched five straight hours of Super Why and then another two of Sesame Street because the TV was the only thing keeping her calm and focused during a particularly bad round of teething. By the time we got the baby to bed, it felt like my brain was about to melt out of my head.

Believe it or not, all this boredom is fertile ground for a writer. It’s hours where I can live entirely inside my head, waiting for my chance to get my thoughts down on paper. The thing is, living so much in my imagination also causes me to stagnate. My biggest discovery when I first started freelancing was that I don’t have interests outside of writing. I lived for so long with writing and books being what I did in my hours after the job that I hadn’t developed any other interests. Trust me, I can talk your ear off about George V. Higgins and Marylyn Robinson, or the virtues of studying genre fiction, but not much of anything else.

And don’t get me wrong, I love the monostatic life. I’m naturally solitary and studious. The fact is, I probably would have made a good priest except the whole no sex thing and believing in god. But being focused on only one or two tasks starts to wear you down, so I started to search out other interests to beat back the everyday boredom of both my jobs.

I tried binge watching television shows, and there’s a lot of good shit, but it’s called the boob tube for a reason, you know. I’m not into gaming for the same reason I’m not into guns: it’s way too expensive and a solid chunk of the people who are into it are psychos. I’m not into sports because I’m a huge pussy who thinks of team sports as conformity conditioners, plus I’m not much into beer. I could find somewhere to start role-playing again. But, you know, D&D always leads me back down the path of worshipping Satan. Satan, of course, would want to take my sweaty hand and lead me down the road of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, which in turn would completely fuck up my whole family dynamic, it’s bad news all around.

Except the rock n’ roll thing.

Well, not exactly the rock n’ roll thing. More like the hip-hop, Memphis blues, R&B, and classical kind of thing. You know, all the stuff I missed out on while blitzing my eardrums with metal and punk in my teens and twenties (which I also still listen to frequently). Over the past two years, I’ve become a slave to music. I study compositions and lyrics, just as much as I do novels and writing.

Yes, I have a whole new subject to bore the fuck out of you with.

But music breaks the tedium for me. I’m like Pavlov’s dog whenever I’m listening. It kick starts me and breaks up the monotony. And that’s the point of the obsession, it’s something other than my two main tasks, it revitalizes me.

What I want to know is, what do you use to get out of your head? Are you a TV watcher, a wine drinker, a sports nut—what jumps starts your process as a writer and a parent? Let me know down in the comments.

Image of Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life
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Keith Rawson

Column by Keith Rawson

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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Comments

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this March 20, 2017 - 6:50am

I tend to skew toward physical activity. Before the baby I would go on long walks in Manhattan, a couple of miles at a time, listening to classical music. It was great for working out story stuff. I can't really do that anymore; if I'm staying out I like it to count for something--book event, work event, something professionally-related so I don't feel like I'm leaving my wife with the baby just so I can wander around. That feels selfish.

I've been going to the gym more, trying to get back before my wife and daughter wake up. It's not always fun to wake up at 5 am, but it's nice to battle against the dual threat of aging and a sedentary professional lifestyle. 

I'm not always great about going to the gym on a regular basis, but I am taking Krav Maga once a week. That's been great. Because it's fun and challenging and I'm fucking terrible at it, so now the addictive part of my brain wants me to keep doing it until I am good at it. Which encourages me to go to the gym more regularly so I can keep up in class. 

So, yeah: Physical activity. It just feels like the opposite end of the spectrum, and I get to use a completely different set of muscles. I tend to leave class beaten to shit and mentally energized.

Jeff Shelby's picture
Jeff Shelby March 20, 2017 - 7:07am

Exercise is key for me. Walking, running, lifting. But I go through cycles where I'll do those things every day and then I'll hit a period where I do very little. 

I am a sports dork, particularly with basketball, so I do tend to watch a lot of college/NBA games and will lose myself in Basketball Journalist Twitter for awhile. I also have a fascination with world class runners, their training methods, and how they try to get faster, so I can find a lot of rabbit holes there, too.

My wife and I have been seeking out documentaries more than original programming, mainly because we can finish a doc in under two hours, but we can't ever get through a run of ten episodes of nearly anything because of kids/work/life. 

I've been half-heartedly trying to learn to play the guitar for two years and while I completely suck ass at it, it provides a good distraction when I need something that I really have to concentrate on.

And when those things fail, I clean. Seriously. I will vacuum and de-clutter and organize. And that actually clears my head in a pretty good way. 

Jerry Bloomfield's picture
Jerry Bloomfield March 20, 2017 - 9:47am

Right now, it's a mix. I am one of those psycho videogames types and do that some (mostly old games or the free ones we get each month. It's gotten really expensive.). Or it might be some movies or shows on Netflix. Both my kids are in school now so I don't have to worry about content. 

But even better is walking. We've moved to a great location, can walk downtown in about forty minutes, got multiple lakes I can walk to, a nice wooded park. Long as I get back in time for the school bell, the day is mine. And something about walking and wandering can help shake writing problems loose.

 

Scott Adlerberg's picture
Scott Adlerberg March 20, 2017 - 10:27am

A few things. Movies for sure, lots of them (or nowadays any number of the good TV series that are on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, etc), and as far as intoxicants go, wine and rum.  But also as someone who from childhood was a huge sports person, I'd definitely emphasize physical activity.  I don't play as much competitive sports as I once did - tennis was my main one and that's great also because it's not a team sport - so the activity usually is bicycling outside or going on the exercycle inside or (when I am a gym member, which I'm not right now) going to the gym for a swim or a workout.  And among my absolute favorites, walking. I never get tired of taking long aimless meditative walks, whether I'm at home in NYC or somewhere else. It's a great way to be in your head and kind of out of it at the same time and a great way to let the imagination work.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman March 20, 2017 - 5:15pm

Jogging. Like a lot of folks here.

Something lately, I've been playing on a non-competitive rec volleyball team. I thought I would hate it, and I kinda do. But I have to say, it takes me out of my own brain a couple hours.