empathy apathy writing motivation

empathy apathy writing motivation

Battling Boredom

Boredom isn’t normally something I deal with. I get bored with things, sure, but there is almost always a mental queue going of all the things I could be doing instead. When I get bored writing things I’m being paid to write, I write for one of my blogs, or, if that doesn’t sound like fun, I write one of the many things I want to write. If I don’t want to write, I draw, or I play a game, or I go outside, or I hang out with someone. I have projects by the dozen.

My problems tend to align way out towards the so much to do, so little time end of things, rather than, I wish I had something to do right now.

Basically, I subscribe to the Louis CK philosophy of boredom:

With the addition, I suppose, of there being effectively infinite skills to master. In spite of that, I was bored yesterday. I was fighting a cold so I couldn’t run, or work out, or work on one of the physical projects, and my head was fuzzy, so I just wasn’t feeling like writing anything. Or even reading much, which is usually a reliable way to kill an entire day for me.

I’ve had a few different work leads that I could have been working on, and I didn’t do anything productive. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, we all need days to rest and recharge, but I. . . well, I mean the world is infinite, and the mind is infinite, but my time is oh so very limited. That’s a whole day that’s not coming back. I could have learned half a dozen new words. I could have learned how to do a card trick. I could have read the manual on my router (the woodworking kind), or the book I’m reviewing for a friend. I could have written a month’s worth of posts  for this blog. Essentially, I could have done anything.

Everyone has to guard against boredom, apathy, ennui, or whatever you want to call it. It’s an incremental sort of death; it doesn’t stop your heart, but it robs you of time, and makes you just a little less alive than you might have been. It’s doubly true for people in any sort of creative field, however. We live off of our ability to see the world a little differently, or create new and engaging worlds from the pieces around us. It doesn’t matter if you’re finding the extraordinary that hides everywhere in the ordinary moments or creating it wholesale from nothing; people read, watch TV, look at pictures and paintings, because they’re trying to expand some horizon inside themselves, and you have to constantly be seeking out those horizons if you want to be able to show them to others.

Excesses of Empathy

I could have done anything.

The only thing I actually did was beat a game called XCOM. I admit that was a little traumatic. At the end of the game [spoiler] one of you team sacrifices their life saving the earth. It just so happened to be my favorite squad member. In all fairness, all your squad members do is move and shoot aliens. The have about five lines of generic canned dialog and randomized names, nicknames, features, stats, and so on. But I’m a writer; just because I’m not given a back story to work with doesn’t mean that things don’t get back stories. Hell, loan me a stapler and it will have a detailed history in my mind in half an hour.

I think everybody does it to some degree, but when you happen to spend your time taking flat empty concepts and trying to turn them into engaging three-dimensional characters, the tendency can run away with you. It may have started out as an innate predisposition, but it’s a bloody habit now. My job, at least the job I want in the long run, really boils down to creating empathy for fake people.

Sure, Eva Solovyova was just so many pixels assembled haphazardly into something that looked like a person. But she was also a leggy Russian blonde with crystalline green eyes, who transferred in to reinforce my unit of elite soldiers after we bailed out her home country of Russia at the cost of one team member’s life. Sure, her stats were random, but they’d randomly turned her into an assault-class soldier who was tougher than nails and a scalpel with shotgun. Her ridiculously high Will(power) stat made her all but immune the enemy’s mind-control as she charged forward through their plasma to cut a swath of destruction through the heart of the invaders–usually quite literally–and, towards the end, it manifested as an ability to tear those same aliens apart with her mind from as far away as she could see them. She was a Valkyrie and she was Death. Eva was the chooser of the slain, and Eva was the one who came to collect on the choice.

It began with a simple question: What must have happened to her? That sort of single-minded appetite for destruction doesn’t just happen. How many of her countrymen had she seen cut down by seemingly invincible aliens to coalesce her into such a single-minded avatar of fury? Given her transfer to my command, I could only imagine that she was the sole survivor of her Russian unit–that she had, leaderless and without orders, seen her subordinates slaughtered around her in the ultimately futile last stand that saw the motherland reduce to ashes, and her people with it.  Naturally, she wouldn’t grow too close to her new teammates, except perhaps the Canadian support officer (medic) Donny Gordon. They would have shared a connection, as he was the sole survivor of humanity’s first encounter with the aliens, and the man who had repeatedly been wounded running through suppressing fire to stabilize Eva when she was clinging desperately and improbably to life after one of her suicidal charges backfired. Eva was the replacement for the only other soldier he’d ever allowed to die after that first horrifying encounter; no matter how broken or battered they were, he’d always gotten his team home from then on. Until the final mission.

It was only fitting that, at the end, he was the (probably randomly chosen) squad member staring back her as she closed the door to the self-destructing mothership’s cockpit, and piloted it towards space as the rest of the team made their desperate escape. Through a year of constant warfare, through the entire slow pivot from seemingly inevitable defeat as nations crumbled across the globe all the way to the final victorious push by the battle-hardened and certain survivors of humanity, all she cared about was revenge; killing as many of the enemy as she could before she finally took a hit Gordon couldn’t fix. Then she sacrificed herself to save them.

I was really pretty bummed out about it. Now all I have to do is make other people bummed out when I kill off my imaginary people and I’ll be ready for the big leagues!

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2 Thoughts on “Empathy and Apathy”

    • Thanks Lorraine! I understand games aren’t everyone, but I get sucked into just about anything that can throw a narrative my way.

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