The word is out about boredom.
Contrary to what we’ve been taught, boredom is good for us.
Evidently it’s a precursor to creativity. Who knew? I sure didn’t. I recently read a newspaper article claiming that it’s so. And others have been on to it well before me. In fact, if you google boredom and creativity, up comes a bundle of info.
Apparently, when we give in to boredom, our imaginations kick into high gear because we can only tolerate it for so long.
Alternately, when we cut off boredom, we run the risk of thwarting innovation and new ideas.
I’ve noticed that sometimes people tell me boredom is anathema to them. That they must always be doing something. And yet, their ceaseless movement often contributes to feeling stuck, like they’re spinning their wheels and can’t get anywhere.
Perhaps I’d do well to encourage them to invite boredom in.
These days, though, we rarely greet boredom with welcoming arms, because there are so many opportunities for distraction. There’s always something rather mindless to look at, listen to, read, play with. Right at our fingertips.
I actually have the ability to bore myself silly, though. Is that a super power, I wonder?
Sometimes I distract myself and resist letting boredom leak in. But most of the time I let it wash over me. I’ve never made the connection to creativity, but it makes sense. Because in spite of my run-ins with boredom, I’m fairly creative and somewhat productive. I have lots and lots of ideas. Way more than I could ever bring to fruition.
Boredom can show up when I’m engaged in an activity, like reading a book or working on a piece of writing. Or it creeps in just as I’m about to start something. Then I’m struck with I-don’t-want-to-itis, or I-don’t-feel-like-it-itis. At that point I find it’s best to just give in.
Some might call this procrastination. Thanks to my recent insights, however, I prefer to call it my creative route through boredom.
And little did I realize I actually have a boredom ritual. Here’s how to do it:
First, say aloud: I am so bored! Or, This is boring me! Or, if you’re with a person who loves you very much and understands your quirks, you can occasionally get away with, Dude, this conversation bores me!
Make sure you declare it with a bit of drama, though. A dose of intentional drama is good for boredom. It keeps you from taking yourself too seriously.
Then, step away from the distractions of technology: phones, computer, television, toys. All of it.
Next, turn away from the boredom relieving properties of food. Crunchy crackers and salty nuts have been known to derail my dates with boredom.
Walk around the house aimlessly for a few minutes. Drag your feet. Stop. Stare out a window.
Sprawl sideways across a bed. Fully clothed.
This is very important. You must be sideways and at minimum dressed in sweats, otherwise your body may become confused and think it’s time to sleep. Also, in a pinch you might get the same effect with a couch or a big chair, but a bed is best.
Allow the boredom in. Feel its fullness. Apathetic. Detached. Indifferent. Lethargic. Listless. Whatever.
Sink into it.
Sigh. A big sigh.
Yawn. A big yawn.
Stretch. A big stretch.
Stare at the ceiling. Look at the walls. Glance out the window, if there is one.
Let your mind wander. Unleash it. Watch it unfurl in a disinterested way.
If you’re like me, right about now you’ll experience a click.
You’ll start to daydream.
Let it happen. Give yourself over to it. Allow those creative ideas to bubble up. Trust me, they will.
When it feels right, stop. Get up. Go about your day with renewed vigor, feeling reconnected to the power of your imagination.
That’s it. Simple, huh?
No kidding, I’ve gotten some of my best ideas this way. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes, and I don’t recommend going much beyond that. And if you’re sinking into long spells of boredom that feel particularly dark or hopeless, then you want to seek help.
Oh, one more thing.
You know those times when you come here and it seems kind of blah? You know, those times when you say, “Man, Patty’s talkin’ about meaning again. I’m so bored with that.” (It’s OK, you can admit it.)
Well, now you know. It’s all part of a bigger plan. My small contribution to your creative spirit. Please, no need to thank me. Just keep visiting!
Love it Patty – have you been watching my working practices? I certainly have patches where boredom sinks in for no good reason – now I understand why. I’ll be putting your step by step guide to use to hone my expertise in boredom (a string to my bow I never knew I had). Thanks for finding the good in something that used to frustrate me immensely – oh and for giving me a good laugh too. I’m off to write some really tedious blog posts to help my readers be more creative.
OK, Phil, now I’m laughing too! I can’t wait to read your tedious posts. How wonderful to know I have company. And if you do try my guide, feel free to tweak so it meets your particular needs. Just make sure you proclaim, ‘I AM BORED!”
Reminds me of Iggy Pop – “I’m Bored – I’m the Chairman of the Bored”.
GASP! You mean… YOU’RE contributing to my boredom so as to help me unlock my creativity? Patty, you’re so thoughtful! 😛
Seriously though, I’m one of those people who gets bored very easily. My mind and heart are always in need of a good story, a moving song, or a particularly inspiring piece of art… anything else just sends me to the land of nod.
However, there are times when I need to put down whatever spellbinding thing I may be lost in so as to do some writing and drawing of my own. It can sometimes be a wrench, I can tell you!
Yes, Tony, I want only the very best for you and my other readers! And I do know what you’re talking about with the wrench thing. Thanks!
I have a different take on Boredom, one that looks at it from the angle of exhausted energy and lack of new impressions. In that case it is a signal that you are most likely, between centres or have exhausted the energy available in the centre you were recently working.
I agree with your third link, use-boredom-to-delve-inside-yourself- If you can notice the signs of approaching boredom, you are more self aware, then it’s time to get into another centre.
There are five centres available to us;
If we find we have exhausted the energy in say, Intellectual centre, then it would be a good time to use the moving centre and, carry out a chore which requires little or no thinking. like I just did by taking out the recycling and opening the gallery.
Emotional centre is the seat of artistic creation, so what is known as “Artists block” could often be “Boredom” (Lack of energy or new impressions) then it would be time to change centres.
Perhaps use your exercise example, of laying across the bed, although my flavour of choice would be “sexual”, so “Sweats or joggers” would not be the appropriate order of dress. ;0))
Thanks for reminding me that Boredom has to be observed and controlled. I agree that prolonged depression and exhaustion requires professional help.
that’s my brief take on it, Now, I hope I didn’t bore you?
Have a great day!
Brilliant, Eso! You have such a gift for expanding the conversation. That is exactly what I do, exhaust my intellectual centre (I so like that spelling rather than our plain “center”). And my boredom ritual does indeed take me into emotional, moving, instinctive centers. Now about the sexual thing. I guess we’d have to ask the boredom/creativity experts if that’s simply another way to distract ourselves, or, hands-down, just about the best boredom solution there is. I’m voting for the latter!
Hi Patty! Well if this wasn’t just a delightful take on a word associated with lack of drive, lack of purpose/meaning, the precursor to depression, dissatisfaction, restless apathy and purgatory!!!! I think, to me at least, it’s the word itself I have a problem with, not your exercises to promote it. It’s usually a word that screams unhappiness. I really like what Eso said.
In the world of suZen, my choice of word is relaxation. I need a lot of that to remove myself from the daily responsibilites, to retreat to that peaceful center where I recharge my batteries, let myself drift into creative imaginative thoughts. I think of this as momentary time off – a nice break – but in a very positive and uplifting way.
The word boredom? Ummm, don’t like it. It has a lot of negative baggage! Good for you trying to change the perception of it though. Interesting, not boring! 🙂
Isn’t that interesting about words, suZen? They sure do take on a life of their own. I remember my grandmother telling me, “There’s no reason for you to be bored.” She was one of those stoics, always doing. But I loved her dearly. I’m sure that’s why I’ve thought boredom was a bad thing for so long. I like your reframe to a place of relaxation and peaceful center (or as Eso would say, “centre”)! Thanks, and hugs to you!
I’m so seldom bored! But I do use up my energies, and thanks to Eso above, I know why. My method of handling it? Call it boredom or energy-deprivation, I take a nap. For about 15 minutes.
I lie down, dressed, on my back. (I never sleep on my back, so this works.) And then I relax into the do-nothingness that has overtaken me. Most days I will fall asleep, but only partially. When I get up I’m relaxed and fresh. Often with a new idea, not always.
Maybe I’m doing the same thing you are — all except claiming the boredom. I hadn’t thought of that. I do like how Eso handles it. I’ll try that too. (I really like the Instinctive thing.) 🙂
Hi Barb – It sure does sound similar to my boredom ritual. You, apparently, have evolved to a place where you don’t need the added feet-dragging drama that is part of my ritual. So that’s something for me to shoot for. And like you, I’m very interested in Eso’s solution. Thanks!
Great blog! Whenever anyone has every asked me one good lesson I remember from my parents, it’s this: my dad saying to me, when I was complaining about being “bored” for the billionth time, “Angie, sometimes it’s good to be bored.” I remember as a kid thinking that was really weird and pondering it for awhile. It’s funny that I remember that. Now, I highly doubt that my dad was connecting that to creativity, but was probably just trying to shut me up. In any case, I now say it to my 5 year old. Enough to when she’s older with kids of her own, she can say what her mom always told her when she was a kid.
That’s a great story, Angela. Love it! Sounds like your dad was way ahead of his time, and didn’t even know it. And know when you tell your kids it’s good for them, you can tell them why. Thanks!
I hate boredom as well but never thought of it this way. Ever. I am willing to do this exercise because it makes sense to me.
I think you’re on to something.
Do you think so? I know it works for me, but then I just wonder if it’s one of my weird idiosyncracies. So I’ll be interested to see what happens if you actually do try it. Thanks, Tess!
I’ve always had a problem with that saying “Only boring people get bored.” Like most truisms, it’s not actually true!
I like what everyone’s said about boredom so far. I think boredom is often about not wanting to face some feeling we have…the feeling of having to be always doing something is out way of escaping our own selves, of not wanting to just sit with our experience. When I get bored, I start to get afraid that I’m not doing enough. Then it conflates with “I-don’t-feel-like-it-itis” (love that!) and I start to feel flawed, unmotivated. I’ve been trying to notice those feelings and not try to escape them.
In our “go,go,go” society, it’s so refreshing to read a positive take on boredom! Thanks!
Yeah, I’ve been there too, Melissa, the “flawed, unmotivated” part. So I loved hearing that it’s actually a good thing, in small doses. Kind of puts a lot in perspective for me. Thanks so much for your comment!
Oh Patty, I could not stop laughing while reading this! In a good way of course. My husband and I have a silly routine involving yelling out “I’m bored!” or “Boring!” at random times that will have us in stitches within seconds. It often evolves into a brainstorm of mostly useless but terrifically-fun ideas. Occasionally, we stumble on a gem. You can turn any topic into a brilliant post that’ll have me coming back for more. How do you do that! Love the sassy way you wrapped up.
You know, Belinda, you two sound like the most wonderfully goofy, silly couple. I just love that! Your description of your routine gave me the giggles, big time. And of course I’m basking in your compliment, because you know I feel the same way about you! Thanks a bunch.
Patty, don’t tell anyone, but I think what you have described is the most perfect natural form of meditation. I hate the idea of sitting cross legged, back straight and uncomfortable, and eyes closed to meditate. I’d much rather lay sideways on the bed, stare off into space, and daydream. The boredom clears the mind of useless drivel and allows your mind to focus on fun and useful thoughts. A most excellent post.
Why, thank you Eric! Now that you mention it, it is rather meditative. Does this mean I no longer have to berate myself for not keeping up with a regular meditation practice? A friend has been encouraging me to go to a weekly meditation group, but I finally decided it wouldn’t be fun enough. I thought – “How shallow of me!” But maybe I just do it differently, right???
Oh Patty, you are a hoot.
I love this, although I am with SuZen on this. I think boredom needs to be scrapped from the dictionary, as I agree we are not bored just do not love what we is on offer anymore.
I too love what Eso said, it makes sense and thus let’s scrap boredom and let all see lack of interest as a natural indicator that change is required and the tank is empty.
Now that will give work and education a different look wouldn’t it?
Oh would that not get us out of the straight jacket we find ourselves in far too often, regularly yelling “I am so over this, give me a break!”
I love this concept and now you have made it legitimate when I get up to have a look in the garden when I ‘should’ be working or when I sneak some spinning in.
Thanks a lot, another guilt feeling gone for good, xox Wilma
Yes, that word sure is loaded isn’t it? So I’m wondering, Wilma…should we just scrap it from the dictionary, or, reclaim it from all the negatives that have been laid on it over the years? I mean, when I look it up, I see other words like tedium, dullness, weariness. I can accept those as a part of life. Not for my entire life or anything. Plus I do so like boredom’s cousin – “ennui.” Now that word has a real ring to it and I sure wouldn’t want it to go away. But whatever word or concept we use, I’m so glad to hear that you will be blissfully gazing at the garden and sitting at the spinning wheel whenever you feel like it. Hugs!
Patty, I enjoyed this very much, thank you. How about the idea of “poised boredom?” You only have to observe cats to understand that although they seem bored, they are actually poised to leap in a nanosecond when creativity calls. I also liked Wilma’s insight that a feeling of boredom indicates that change might be necessary. It’s like following your attractions in nature. I can sit under the giant ginkgo tree in total stillness of acceptance (the seeds of creative boredom), and when I feel that enough is enough I shift to another place that attracts me. If you can truly sense boredom, this must also mean that your senses are alive and functioning and not at all bored. Maybe boredom simply means not forcing your mind to like or dislike. And perhaps this mental and emotional state of everything and anything is all right is what reveals true insights. In a way, boredom is the state of recharging your energies. Have you noticed how you suddenly leap up from the bed because an amazing idea takes hold? Thanks for visiting my blog, Patty. Please come again to read about the sorry state of Mount Fuji – Catrien Ross.
Hi Catrien – You couldn’t have chosen a better example for me: cats. I’m surrounded by them and I absolutely understand what you say about poised boredom. There is a stillness just before the leap, and you’re right, I do leap off the bed. Thanks for that insight!
Few things irk me as much as people who are peacock proud of being perpetually busy. Much sound and fury, signifying nothing. I’m a big fan of stillness, which isn’t quite the same thing as boredom, but boredom has its charms as well! I agree about it possibly being a precursor to creativity. When I get bored, I have to entertain myself, which leads either to creativity or a suspended sentence.
I am here by way of Sara’s marvelous blog.
Hi Fireblossom – Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve clicked over from Sara’s wonderful place. Oh yes, stillness, I was just using that word in my previous reply to Catrien. I like that word a lot. Thanks much for the comment.
Patty — I’m a bit late for this post, but it gave me a chance to read the other comments.
I was taken by the fact that some people seemed to feel the word “boredom” is a useless word to describe a frustrating and unproductive state of being.
I’m not sure I can agree with this. I think “boredom” is just a word and we put our own feelings on it. Therefore, I like what you said in this post very much and your suggestions. You help me see BOREDOM is a new light. You make it a useful word; the “way station” of creativity:~)
Oh, never late here, Sara. Stop in anytime. I agree that boredom is a fine word in its own right, and its the stuff we project on it that we need to look at. But then again, I love words, so maybe that’s just a personal preference. But then again (oops, I’m debating myself now), I think there is a danger in giving too much power to a simple little word. Anyway, I just love your idea of it as a “way station.” Thanks!
I found out – in my own simple way – what I do when I am bored. While I was not truly bored, I posed for a sketching class last week. The holding still was the hardest part to me. Once I found a pose, especially the longer ones of 10-15-20 minutes, I would stare at a person or a person’s shoes and dream up a life to go with what the person looks like or was wearing or the shoes that were in my view. I loved it!!!
Hi Nicki – What a perfect example of what I’m talking about. (BTW, I did read about your adventures in the drawing class, catching up a few days ago; you are quite the bold woman!). Holding still forced you to call on your vivid inner imagination to create a story to get you through. Now that’s the gift of boredom. Thanks!
I like what Bruno Bettelheim said about boredom: “boredom is a sign of feelings too deep and hard to bring to the surface.” I get the sense that, when we allow ourselves to fully experience our boredom rather than running away from it, we get more comfortable and familiar with parts of ourselves we lacked access to before.
So true, Chris. Thanks for sharing that quote. It really speaks to the depth of experience that boredom is calling us to. Yet if we shove it aside and choose distraction instead, we lose a rich opportunity to be in touch with those deeper parts. Thanks!
Wow, Patty. Great advice you have here and I really liked this post. It’s very practical, so realistic that I have actually performed the ritual you’ve just shared above, without even thinking too much about it.
Boredom is but a step to creativity. And your post made the points so easy to digest. Maybe next time you’ll write about bouts of melancholy and the good side of it?
Oh btw, Esoman had directed me to your blog and I must say, it is a gem of a blog! Take care.
Hi Shanaz – Welcome, and thank you so much for your kind words. And, yes, I do believe there is a good side to melancholy, certainly something to be learned from it. But we bypass that so often with anti-depressants and what not. Did you know that it is much more common to feel melancholy than the outer world would have us believe? Part of our natural rhythm, in fact. Not all the time, mind you. Anyway, that would be an excellent post for a future day. I’ve also written a post called, “In the Hallway of Transition” that is somewhat related to that.
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