Writer Wednesday: How to be Dull

[A guest post from Basil Morley — or rather, a snippet from his forthcoming book How to be Dull: Standing out next to Genius, truly a guide for our times. I am helping to edit the collection together.]

How to be Dull

Tips for blending in with the crowd

Fear more, hope less.

You know what gets you noticed? Being tall or short, having your head above the parapet, wearing bright colours. If you spend a little more time worrying what people might be assuming about you and less time actually working productively, you’ll find that you need hope less for extraordinary things to happen to you. Which means you can relax. Who needs adventures? They end up being a lot of bother in the end and often lead to injury and regrets.

Cherish your anonymity.

The reason our eyes pass over a flock of sheep and use words like ‘flock’ is because the big white wooly beasts look more or less the same to us. No one sheep seems particularly memorable and therein lies their safety. You don’t want a big bad wolf remembering you and marking you out for the kill. No, it’s better to blend in and be unnoticed.

Encourage the anonymity of others.

To blend in with the crowd, you need a crowd to blend into. If you’re surrounded by people striving to stand out and be creative, that will be much harder to accomplish. You need to encourage them to be more anonymous. Carp and criticise everything that they do. Make them doubt their abilities. Point out tiny errors with glee (record them in a notebook in front of the person if at all possible; let them know someone is keeping score).

Surround yourself with people of the same beliefs.

There is no relief for the dull quite like knowing there are others to share their dullness. The last thing you want is people who challenge your accepted notions and old prejudices. People who disagree are disagreeable. To maintain a life of unrippled dullness, don’t let anyone stir the waters. No stones, please.

Make a living doing something you despise.

Nothing makes for a dull existence quite like numbing labour. Work that you loathe fulfills all the requirements for a drab existence. You will not suffer from inspiration and excitement, or the inconvenience of hope. Like the millstone that grinds the corn, dispiriting labour will rub away any iconoclast quirks or noticeable individualism.

Seek out urban blight.

Avoid all those folks who go traipsing around in nature to ooh and ahh at wonders. Instead visit your local crumbling urban landscape and see how badly ambition can go wrong. There is much to learn from the horrors of urban blight ( and not just an impetus to stay indoors), such as how every thing crumbles away even when made of steel; or that people seemingly prefer to deface what other people have done instead of going to the difficulty of building something themselves and there is no structure so monumental that it will not eventually fall and probably crush some innocents.

Coming soon to a book selling outlet near you in 2014.


  1. Waving my red umbrella over the parapet here in a dangerously non-anonymous way to say ‘great post’ – please thank Basil Morley for the inspiration.

    1. katelaity says:

      It’s a lovely shade of red. Though Mr Morley has shuffled off the mortal coil, your thoughts fly to him wherever he may be.

      1. Oh no, ooops, sorry, I hadn’t realised. 😦

        1. katelaity says:

          He lives on through his words and always shall.

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