Is There Power in Boredom?

ScreenShot7796When was the last time you were bored? Truly bored. Not a time when you wish you were doing something more interesting, but where your mind was almost completely unoccupied.

I’ll bet it’s a lot less common than it used to be. Especially if you have a smartphone.

And that might just be a problem. Some new research, suggests that boredom may be a critical component to creativity.

Looking back through my own life, there is certainly some anecdotal evidence to support the theory. The most creative places for me have always included the shower and driving alone in the car–places practically synonymous with boredom. And as I’ve gotten older, taken on more responsibility, and technology has become more ubiquitous, boredom is more and more rare.

If I’m in line waiting for the next cashier, I’m as likely to check my email as I am to let my mind wander. And that wandering mind is important in being a writer. Not only does it help you come up with ideas, plot and dialogue. But people watching and unconsciously soaking in the environment around you is critical in making your world and writing more real.

So…what to do?

1. Follow the link above and you can find out how to participate in the Bored and Brilliant challenge, taking place during the first week of February. All you’ll do is keep track of the time you spend on your phone over the course of that week. The data is going into a larger study about boredom and creativity.

2. Let yourself be bored, not just for a day, but as a reasonable part of your routine, and see if it has any affect on your creative soul.

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5 thoughts on “Is There Power in Boredom?

  1. I hadn’t really thought about boredom like this. I’ll definitely be checking out that link you shared. Thanks!

  2. This sounds like a great idea, but I couldn’t possibly participate. I don’t carry a cell phone. I typically refer to cell phones as the curse of the twenty first century.

  3. This is really interesting. I find the shower to be one of the places my mind wanders also. Maybe it’s not just boredom, but also carrying out tasks we perform without thinking so we can keep our hands busy but our minds free. I feel uncomfortable just sitting and not doing anything, I can’t think creatively then.

    It’s simple (possibly also relaxing?) tasks like showering, household chores, gardening and so on, where I start hearing dialogue and imagining scenes.

    I wonder how many people we see trimming the ivy are also in the middle of an argument with a murderous flamingo – or, well, something like that! I’ll try to remember and join in with the study.

  4. And yet, when I stare off into the middle distance, I’m accused of wasting time. What’s a girl to do?

  5. It used to be called daydreaming and I was often accused, usually by frustrated teachers, of engaging too often in that activity.
    I’m also a teacher now (pays the bills.) When I hear kids declare that they’re bored, I ask how much they know about the subject at hand. You cannot be bored until you know everything there is to know. Which I suspect is why many people are fascinated by their phones – so many new things (apps, sites) to explore, even if many are stupid new things.
    I won’t participate in the challenge. Don’t have, don’t want a smart phone. But please let us know the results of this survey.

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