Found in the Crowd – the case for crowdfunding anthologies

Authors, publishers and literary journals are all finding new ways of connecting directly to their readers – and their wallets – on online platforms such as Kickstarter. In this article, Dan Coxon examines how the social financing can bring new book ideas to life. 

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Image by tai11/iStock

Recently there has been a lot of chatter about the future of the short story. Some feel that we’re seeing a resurgence of the short form, citing as proof the phenomenal success of George Saunders, or the unlikely appearance of Tom Hanks’s debut collection. Others feel that the popularity of stories has steadily declined in recent years. In his generally positive introduction to The Penguin Book of the British Short Story, even Philip Hensher was forced to admit that ‘reading short stories rewarded by competitions, I was struck by present-tense solitary reflections, often with characters lying on their beds affectlessly pondering… There was nothing there at all, apart from a fervent desire to win £30,000.’

What everyone appears to agree on is that publishers don’t know what to do with short fiction. Occasionally, the larger publishers will humour an established author – Hilary Mantel, Lionel Shriver – by allowing them a collection between the novels, but you’re unlikely to see many debuts. (Hanks is the obvious exception – but there’s no need to explain the marketing decision behind that book.) New authors are finding that only the smaller, independent presses are willing to take a punt on their genius.

The same is also true of anthologies. I’ve now crowdfunded two anthologies on Kickstarter: Being Dad: Short Stories About Fatherhood (Tangent Books), and most recently This Dreaming Isle (Unsung Stories), a collection of stories inspired by British folklore and local history. Increasingly, independent publishers are turning to crowdfunding as a viable option, and in particular it’s something that seems to be working for the humble anthology. Might there be a future for the short story after all?

In many ways, my experience with Being Dad was typical. Several medium-to-large publishers expressed an interest, but said that anthologies ‘didn’t sell’ (how they would know this when they didn’t actually publish any is one of life’s great mysteries). Eventually, I secured the interest of Bristol-based Tangent Books, who had the foresight to see that this was a book which had both a market and some great stories. There was one proviso: we had to raise the initial costs via crowdfunding.

I’ll admit, at first I was reluctant. There is still an element of resistance to the crowdfunding route, especially among older writers and readers. It’s sometimes seen as being worryingly close to vanity publishing – you go cap-in-hand to your friends and family, beg them for money, and then pay a publisher to print the book. At one end of the scale, this is certainly the case. As in any industry, there are unscrupulous businesses that are only too willing to take your money.

But in all the cases cited here, it wasn’t a matter of funding a book outright via ‘donations’, but rather a means of generating publicity and interest ahead of publication to ensure its success. I find it useful to think of the new crowdfunding model as a kind of inverse marketing: whereas the publicity campaign usually kicks in upon publication, here we did all our marketing in advance. I like to think that most of these people would have bought the book anyway – but by doing it ahead of publication, they helped reduce the risk to both publisher and authors, and therefore made the book possible.

I won’t go into the details here, but suffice it to say that crowdfunding a book is a long and arduous process. What has struck me most forcibly, however, is the interest we have received – and not just from people we knew. Yes, many of my friends backed the books I’ve crowdfunded, for which I’m hugely grateful. But we’ve received pledges from complete strangers from all corners of the globe – some of them extremely generous – and in the final accounting these constituted the vast majority of pledges. With both the books I’ve been involved in, we were able to pre-sell much of the first print run and the projects very quickly went into profit.

My experience is by no means unique. Last year Unsung Stories crowdfunded 2084, an anthology of short stories inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and they had a resounding success. Their funding goal was reached within eleven hours of the campaign launching, and the final total was almost ten times the original target.

I asked George Sandison at Unsung Stories why they’d decided to crowdfund the book, and this is what he had to say:

‘One of the things an anthology gives you, that a single-author book doesn’t, is a chance to reach the fans of every author involved. Between support from contributors with promoting the launch, and a larger group of people who may be interested in the project, you’ve got a healthy customer base to call on. And one of the things crowdfunding does really well, is get people involved in a project – they get their name in the book, collectible editions, artwork, special stuff they’ll want to keep. So combine those two things and you have a lot of people, who are empowered and made part of the process. Quite literally, they help make the book.’

This is what I’ve found too, and it suggests that there’s a very real business model that’s starting to emerge. Anthologies benefit from having several authors involved, and with their combined fan bases they are able to spread their appeal more widely. Having one or two well-established authors on board can also make it more appealing, especially to an audience that might not have taken a chance on the lesser-known writers.

Of course, it’s not just anthologies that are reaping the benefits of crowdfunding. Independent presses in general are gradually coming to realise its advantages, and many now have a success story to tell. Influx Press crowdfunded their own anthology, The Unreliable Guide to London, which has gone on to receive critical acclaim and was shortlisted for a number of awards. Following that, they also ran a crowdfunding campaign to fund the next year’s publications, which met its target with ease. Dead Ink and Dodo Ink have also turned to crowdfunding to get projects off the ground in recent years, and all are going from strength to strength.

Interestingly, Unbound enjoyed a huge crowdfunded success with Nikesh Shukla’s The Good Immigrant. While this was non-fiction, rather than fiction, it once again suggested that crowdfunding works for multi-author projects. I’ve since been told that Unbound will no longer consider anthologies, a decision that seems to undermine the idea of crowdfunding anthologies as a strong business model. It starts to make sense, however, when you bear in mind that Unbound are now part of the Penguin Random House behemoth. Clearly the mainstream publishing mantra that ‘anthologies don’t sell’ has already seeped through to the Unbounders.

Within the independent field, though, the anthology may actually be thriving, and crowdfunding is looking more and more like the way forward. Yes, short stories are a niche market – but they’re a market nonetheless. By targeting and actively involving readers who have an interest in short fiction, projects like Unsung’s 2084 and This Dreaming Isle are looking remarkably prescient, a glimpse into what the future might hold for anthologists everywhere. Publishers would do well to look to crowdfunding when they’re considering turning an anthology down. The market is still out there – you just have to search for it in the crowd.

About the author of this post

Dan Coxon author picDan Coxon edited the anthologies Being Dad (Tangent Books, 2016) and This Dreaming Isle (Unsung Stories, 2018), and is a contributing editor at The Lonely Crowd. He also edits and publishes a bi-annual journal of weird and eerie fiction, The Shadow Booth. His writing has appeared in SalonPopshotThe Lonely CrowdOpen PenWales Arts ReviewGutterThe Portland Review and Unthology 9 amongst others, and he was long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2017. He runs an editing and proofreading business at www.momuseditorial.co.uk, and can be found on Twitter at @dancoxonauthor.

 

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Eat My Debt

Cash receipts and till slips

Receipts are very obviously very wrong. Anyone – man or woman – after a day’s Christmas shopping can see this. The hardware shop you go into to buy your dad that new pair of gardening gloves has a stupid bit of token paper about one inch square, whereas when you go to the stereo shop to get the electrical wire for your nephew’s speakers they give you two sheets of A4. Supermarkets tend to give you an acceptably-sized ticket, though that’s only because all you’ve bought is two bottles of Cava and a box of Matchstick chocolates, and then going into the clothes shop to get your sister that jumper, and they give you another bloody receipt of another bloody size. And do not get me started on Apple now doing “electronic receipts” by email oh dear gods they need to burn, burn, burn.

A man’s wallet is the same size – whomever the man, whatever his wallet. It’s battered, and contains his cards, his work ID, a couple of pictures of his kids, a used train ticket and a fiver. It’s 7 inches long by 3 1/2 high (yes yes – calm down), and can a twenty, a ten and a fiver (a £50 note is actually slightly too big for it – the Royal Mint know this, and that’s why they’re that size – to repress the peasants and make sure that should we ever get hold of one we ruin it’s loveliness immediately if we try to store it away, thus perpetuating the mental subjugation of the working classes).

So the solution is this: make all receipts the same size. 2½ inches wide by as many as necessary long. This will offer enough room for a company logo, time and date, transactions, and a corporate pleasantry at the bottom. They will then be big enough to be stored together in an easily filed, accessible manner; smaller than the notes but big enough to read, and will have the added advantage that also women’s handbags and purses can then be adapted to have a dedicated receipt section (and every handbag is only ever on the brink of being replaced for a newer, nicer one, as eny fule no), thus boosting the economy.

It’s an obvious problem, and this is the obvious solution.

About the author of this post

goatmanThe Goatman – due to the usual experiments going wrong etc etc, The Goatman is  an internationally-available gentleman of letters, raconteur and wit. His amorous conquests are myriad, his taste in whisky of renown, and his ability to look comfortable in extreme situations is of significant scientific study. He has been known to conspire with Vagabond Images.

Perfect literary stocking fillers

 

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The average British family is set to spend almost £800 on Christmas this year – and their American counterparts will themselves spend around US$950. That’s an awful lot of turkey and cranberry sauce to go with all those horrible socks for your uncle and those whisky stones for your hipster brother – not to forget that Rick and Morty version of Monopoly for your sister or that tartan scarf for your mother-in-law to go with all the other tartan scarves you’ve bought her every other Christmas.

While there’s nothing wrong with copious amounts of cranberry sauce or horrible socks necessarily, it goes without saying that Christmas is so often a time of purchasing for the sake of purchasing only in honour of the religion of consumerism, rather than anything more meaningful. There’s obviously a problem here, as David Foster Wallace would put it: “if you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning from life – then you will never have enough.”

So what purchases can you make this year that provide more of that “real meaning”? Well, we’ve come to the conclusion that some of the best purchases you can make this Christmas may be on items that have a far longer shelf-life and far greater usability than Star Wars fruit and utensils.

We are, of course, talking about books. Not only can they be read again and again, and invite us to explore new worlds and entire new universes, they also help us think differently about the world – and they teach us about wonderful new ideas. They’re also good for us, too. As this paper in the journal Science points out, reading literary works cultivates a skill known as “theory of mind”, which is described as the “ability to ‘read’ the thoughts and feelings of others.” So books make us nicer, basically. If there is anything more appropriate at Christmas, then, we certainly haven’t come across it.

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So which books should you buy for those special people in your life whose stockings you need to fill? To help you narrow your options down, take a look at some of our suggestions, below:

1. Christmas with dull people, by Saki

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‘They say (said Reginald) that there’s nothing sadder than victory except defeat. If you’ve ever stayed with dull people during what is alleged to be the festive season, you can probably revise that saying.’

Hector Hugh Munro, better known by his pen name, Saki, was a master of wit and satire in the Edwardian era. Here, Daunt Books has reproduced four of his short stories that explore one the most dangerous aspects of Christmas: dealing with dull people. Saki expertly, and with an incredible precision of wit, deconstructs those most ghastly and perilous aspects of the holiday period, from being given unwanted gifts to writing thank you notes. Short and sharp enough to devour before breakfast on Christmas Day – and, crucially, small enough to fit in any size of present-filling footwear – this is an excellent stocking filler for anyone who pleasures in moaning about the festive holiday before getting into the swing of it all.

2. Penguin Little Black Classics

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126 little books to choose from – each around 60 pages long – give you a wealth of options to explore. These extracts of wider classical literary works are sure to offer choices to meet all literary tastes. Authors include Karl Marx, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Caligula, Keats, Flaubert, Dostoevsky and Dickens. What’s not to love?

3. This is the place to be, by Lara Pawson

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Nominated for the Gordon Burn Prize, as well as the PEN Ackerley and the Bread & Roses awards, This is the place to be, by Lara Pawson, is one hell of a good read. Small enough to fit in your stocking, it still packs a massive punch in the proverbial “feels” as it moves with a delicate precision through personal anecdotes of the author, taking us from the market at Walthomstow to the harrowing experiences of war in Angola. There’s an immense honesty within this book that carries us through from start to finish – with each vignette or mini-story contained within it perfect for sharing together around a Christmas fire or over a large bottle of brandy.

4. On being nice, by the School of Life

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Most books that want to change us seek to make us richer or thinner. This book wants to help us to be nicer: that is, less irritable, more patient, readier to listen, warmer, less prickly. Niceness may not have the immediate allure of money or fame, but it is a hugely important quality nevertheless and one that we neglect at our peril.

Produced by those wonderful folk at The School of Life – the same folk who gave us this lovely meditation on what literature is actually forOn being nice states that niceness “deserves to be rediscovered as one of the highest of all human achievements”. In the era of Donald Trump, Brexit, rising hate crime and geopolitical tensions, it’s a lesson we would do well to learn, whether it’s Christmas time or not.

5. The Corbyn Colouring Book: Austerity-free edition, by James Nunn

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Speaking of people being nicer to one another, how about the latest iteration of the Corbyn colouring book? In a year that saw over 40% of the UK vote for the radical socialist and hope-filled policies of Jeremy Corbyn’s labour party – forcing the much-maligned (and malignant) Conservative government to sign a desperate deal with the terrorist-sympathising DUP – this book is a fine addition to the new canon of colouring books for adults.

Designed by James Nunn, the new version invited you to “relive the excitement of #GE2017 over and over again.” To the colouring pencils, comrades!

6. These delightful short quasi-novellas by BBC National Short Story Prize shortlistee Will Eaves

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The Absent Therapist (TAT) saw Will Eaves shortlisted for the prestigious Goldsmith Prize, and you can see why. Technically described as a novel, this delightful little book will fit any stocking – but would also be a great find under the Christmas tree. A collection of mini-narratives, each with a precise tone and occasional touches of poetry, feature stories of artificial intelligence and musings on philosophy, of travel and adventure, and of course, family feuds – without which it simply wouldn’t be Christmas.

Cousin to TAT, The Inevitable Gift Shop, is similarly groundbreaking and unique (as we’ve noted before). Described as ‘a memoir by other means’, it’s not at all plot driven. Rather, this work of collage brings together bits and pieces of memoir, fictional prose, poetry, essay and non-fiction. Interactive, funny, insightful and thought provoking in equal turns, it’s a perfect book to revisit time and time again.

7. Ignore those rip-off ‘Children books for adults’ – get the original instead
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It now seems as though the shelves of all bookstores and department stores are full of these ‘adult children’s books’; semi-funny spoof versions of the books we grew up reading as children. You know the ones – “The Ladybird book of the Wife”; “Five go to an office Christmas party”; “Mr Tickle gets arrested for sexual assault”, etc. etc.

The trouble with these books, however, is that they are so obviously part of a fad trend built up by the publishing industry to keep their noses afloat as sales of literary fiction crash. And while that might be excusable, the fact that these are rip-off copies of an idea by one independent artist – who was then sued for copyright by Penguin only to see the publishing giant steal her idea for their own gain – leave a somewhat sour taste in the mouth.

So, this Christmas, don’t pick up the latest gimmick – go for the original thing and get a copy of ‘We Go to the Gallery’ from Dung Beetle Books.

2016 – a look back on the year we’ve had

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As we move forward to 2017, please allow us a somewhat self-indulgent post looking back on some of our highlights from the year gone by. After all, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for many around the world – with seismic political events like Brexit and Donald Trump ‘winning’ the US election, along with the continuing breakdown of the natural world and environmental destruction, reiterating the necessity for all progressive, right-minded people to work together to ensure that 2017 – and the years following it – are not as bad as this one.

Without further ado, therefore, here are our Nothing in the Rulebook highlights of 2016.

Our interviews with fantastic creative people around the world

We’ve been running our Creatives in Profile interview series since we first launched the site, and in 2016 we were fortunate enough to interview some truly fascinating – and brilliant – creatives based across the world. From Japan-based author Iain Maloney through Paul M. M. Cooper, the great guys and gals at The Extra Secret Podcast and Pondering Media, to author Julia Forster, it’s been a true honour to speak with creative artists who are truly leading the way in forging new ways of looking at the world through different artistic media. We can’t wait to continue our interview series over the year ahead – so do look out for more creatives in profile!

Stumbling upon some great literary finds

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We’re always on the hunt for artistic delights and creative discoveries, and it has been a great year from that perspective, as we uncovered such literary wonders as John Malkovich reading aloud Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, incredible letters from Charles Bukowski and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the mysterious literary oddity that is the Voynich Manuscript, beat poet legend Alan Ginsberg singing and reading poetry at the University of Warwick, as well as the audio recording of James Baldwin’s fascinating lecture on the real meaning of words and the artist’s struggle for integrity (alongside many others!). We’ll continue our hunt to unearth some of the great literary wonders of the world – and will be sure to bring them right to your computer and smartphone screens when we do.

Bad Sex in Fiction: the connoisseur’s compendium

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One of a number of our articles to go viral in 2016 was our ‘compendium’ of all the extracts from books that won the notorious ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award. Featuring spasming muscles, groans, sighs, moans like “police sirens” and “otherwise central zones”, we dug through each of the books that have won the award since it first launched 24 years ago in 1993. It was quite an effort at times; but completely worth it. Do check it out for yourselves, here.

Our first podcast guest appearance

In November, we had the absolute honour to make a guest appearance on the fabulous Extra Secret Podcast in one of their ‘after dark’ episodes. We (that is, Professor Wu and Billy the Echidna) had the chance to talk everything from obscure cult cartoon shows through literature, podcasting, the direction of art and creativity in the digital age, to, of course, Donald Trump – and what his election means for the world. Do check out the podcast online here, and download it via iTunes.

Reviewing some of the finest new books and writing

A real treat for us in 2016 was the opportunity to read and review some truly excellent pieces of writing from both new and established authors. We’re incredibly grateful to the writers and publishing houses who sent us their work – especially since it confirmed for us the fact that there are so many writers out there creating truly exceptional, new and unique pieces of work. Highlights this year include The Waves Burn Bright by Iain Maloney, The Woman in the Water by Will and Sheila Barton, the F(r)iction anthology from Tethered by Letters, What a Way to Go by Julia Forster, Kingdom by Russ Litten, The Inevitable Gift Shop by Will Eaves, and River of Ink by Paul M. M. Cooper.

Welcoming new members to our incredible contributor’s team

Our entire raison d’etre is to build a platform for creative expression – where all artists can come and put their ideas and work across in a safe and supportive space. It’s been truly astounding to see new artists from a multitude of different disciplines join our gang and write countless fantastic articles. So much respect and love for the new contributors to have joined our team this year – Ben Garland, Asim Khan, Robyn Hardman, Josh Spiller, Tom Andrews, Adam Steiner and Eric A Hanson – who join our established team of contributors who have been with us since 2015; Julia Bell, Lola Blake, Rishi Dastidar, Hannah Fairney Jeans, ‘The Goatman’, David Greaves, Iain Maloney, Daniel Offen, Charlotte Salter, Chris Smith, Mark Tomlinson and George Vernon.

You, dear readers!

It should never go without saying that we are nothing without the people who read our work. Without wishing to sound overly sentimental, or start using clichéd song titles and lyrics, everything we do, we do for you. Thank you eternally for your support, and we look forward to many more journeys and adventures with you over 2017! And, if you’re an aspiring creative yourself, do consider making the jump from reader to contributor – get in touch!

 

Until next time, comrades –  Happy New Year!

The importance of boredom in writing

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When was the last time you were bored – or even just waiting alone by yourself for a spare moment – and didn’t instantly spring to bridge that feeling of boredom or fill that moment of waiting by checking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (or even LinkedIn if the boredom were really acute)? And how about the last time you were out for a meal with your partner, and didn’t reach for your smartphone the minute they left to use the bathroom?

What we are doing, when we do these things, is recoiling from the dull. But why? Why do we do this? Perhaps this desire to flee boredom and escape from it is created in our minds because boredom is intrinsically painful – we describe it, after all, in linguistical terms that imply this pain: ‘deadly dull’; ‘excruciatingly boring’; ‘bored to death’. And studies even suggest that people prefer painful experiences to being alone in a room with their own thoughts for fifteen minutes.

Our lives, however, are completely entwined with experiences of boredom. We can all recognize that feeling of suspended anticipation in which things are started and nothing begins; that mood of diffuse restlessness which contains that fiercely strong desire for action, for movement.

An ode to boredom: a force for good

Yet, although boredom is an intrinsic part of life for everyone; it needn’t be destructive – and it certainly needn’t be painful. In fact, there’s a growing consensus that boredom should be embraced – and that avoiding boredom is potentially far more destructive and dangerous.

Indeed, consider the words of British Philosopher, Bertrand Russell, “A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men… of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”

Meanwhile, Soren Kierkegaard – perhaps the world’s first existentialist – explained that “the unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself.” In this, he hints at what lies behind our decisions to constantly reach for the smartphone; for the device that distracts us. It is an unconscious desire to be “absent” from ourselves and from the world: an insidious form of escapism.

And in acquiescing to our fear of boredom, of sitting quietly and thinking hard about things for thirty minutes instead of thirty seconds, we deny ourselves the opportunity to become greater than we are: we deny ourselves the opportunity to better understand who we are, at our very deepest levels, as human beings.

Boredom is important, then, because it opens channels. It expands our potential and helps us to grow – to better understand ourselves and the world. We can find new ways of thinking about life in those moments when boredom forces us to think about things other than the latest post about cats on Facebook.

On writing

Boredom, of course, is not just a ‘real life’ issue, which affects us intermittently depending on the flows of our lives. It is, instead, a very real part of the writing process. Writing is, after all, essentially the attempt to elucidate thoughts and ideas: the very things boredom helps us dwell upon and create.

It’s perhaps little coincidence so many inspiring thoughts are had in moments of quiet solitude – sitting beneath apple trees or relaxing in a bath. These are the moments in which we are able to think carefully about ideas and draw unexpected conclusions we are otherwise unable to in a world of constant stimulation – of music and television everywhere you go; of constant out-of-office emails and work patterns; of incessant digital background babbling.

Certainly, there seems a feeling among certain writers that boredom is essential for writing and creative thinking. For example, comedy writer Graham Linehan said, in a recent interview for the Guardian: “I have to use all these programs that cut off the internet, force me to be bored, because being bored is an essential part of writing, and the internet has made it very hard to be bored.”

It is the fear of boredom, and the ease of distraction from boredom – enabled by the internet and smartphones – that is dangerous to writing. Little wonder Kingsley Amis said “the art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” We have to be willing, as writers, to embrace boredom and resist that desire to flee its embrace.

The boredom paradox

One of the issues with suggesting that we need to embrace boredom in order to become creative and to think in new and unexpected ways, is that, once we start being creative and thinking in this way, we stop being bored. Very few people hit upon an idea that absolutely inspires them and are able to retain a detached distance from it in which conversations about their work proceed something along the lines of:

“So I’ve discovered the meaning of existence.”

“Oh, really? That’s incredible!”

“Yah. Yah, it’s okay I guess. I dunno. I guess it’s fine to be getting on with for the time being.”

In fact, in a way it perhaps seems strange that we recoil from boredom at all: because why would we fear the opportunity to be creative, to think stimulating thoughts and break down boundaries? Perhaps there’s something else here. Something deeper. That it is not boredom itself that we fear: but rather, the things we might discover in ourselves, within that boredom.

The late writer, David Foster Wallace, touched upon this in questioning why we held in ourselves “This terror of silence [when faced with] nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.”

It is that something else, perhaps, which truly frightens us. Because perhaps what we fear most is understanding who we actually are – or allowing ourselves to realise and acknowledge those things we spend so much time trying to ignore: that we are mortal, and never ever more than a breath away from death. That we are alone in a vast, spinning, and infinite world; that we exist in a universe in which we are totally and utterly and completely insignificant.

These thoughts truly are terrifying. I don’t know about you but I am literally screaming at the top of my lungs as I write this and think these thoughts, eyes wide and pupils dilated. But in all that terror, there’s also something deeply, intensely interesting.

In fact, in a way, it’s incredible, really, that we allow ourselves to become bored, anyway. After all, there is an infinite amount to be thought of; an infinite number of ideas to be had. We live in a universe full of wonders, so impossibly vast that we can’t comprehend it, even with our minds, which are themselves infinite and vast and go on forever.

What is to be done?

So what do we do, then, other than taking all our mobilephones, our laptops and computers and throwing them in the nearest ocean? Perhaps we could become hermits, and live alone by ourselves in perpetual solitude. Although I hear this is a dying trade and an industry in great decline.

Once again, Bertrand Russell offers the following thoughts: “A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.”

How about that, then. Perhaps we should just start talking a little more quietly. I know this can be difficult, especially in the digital age of ‘social media’ – which so often just seems to be an echo-chamber in which communities of like-minds write ALL IN CAPS as their empty theses, condensed into 140 characters, are lost in a cacophony of data and trending #hashtags.

Indeed, this is a problem of social media highlighted by Mark Fisher in his work, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? As he suggests the internet “facilitates communities of solipsists, interpassive networks of like-minds who confirm, rather than challenge, each others’ assumptions and prejudices.”

If true, what this suggests is that rather than broadening our horizons, as is necessary to think deeply and hard about subjects and ideas – a crucial act in writing – we are instead simply shouting loudly over the top of other people saying the exact same thing. In such scenarios, a break away from technology; from these communities, can only be a good thing for our minds and our writing. So perhaps the first step in embracing boredom is to step away from that which tries so hard to distract us from being bored – the internet. Perhaps the first step is to turn off the power and start to think.

Coda

The greatest irony with all this, of course, is that I have written this post on my smartphone while waiting in a queue to watch The Minions movie, because I couldn’t bear to stand by myself doing nothing. Indeed, in writing this, then, am I myself escaping the reality of boredom? That necessary reality we must embrace in order to live a happy life? And here I was hoping those little yellow bastards would help distract me for 90 minutes from the ultimate reality that we are all slowly being drawn toward that sweet caress of death.

But wait, this isn’t just me, is it? You’re probably reading this on your iPhone, while sitting on the toilet, aren’t you? What are we to do?

Pfft. Everything’s just too meta these days. And too meta meta, as well. Meta2, if you will. Oh the humanity. I’m off to find a little stream where I can sit quietly and listen. You should too, if you want to, maybe.