When was the last time you were bored?
I mean really really bored?
So bored that you even thought about watching cricket? A full 5 day Test Match?
So bored that sorting through paint swatches while watching episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians seems like a debauched party Caligula would be proud of?
I came across this tweet from Austin Kleon (Steal Like an Artist – @austinkleon): “How art works: when depressed, you draw Batman depressed. You’re still depressed, but now you have a picture of Batman.”
So, in true artistic fashion, I will steal Austin’s quote and change it slightly: “When you’re bored, you draw Batman bored. You’re still bored, but now you have a picture of Batman.”
And then appropriate it for writers: “When you’re bored, you write a paragraph about Batman cataloguing his capes and utility belts, and colour coding his socks and underwear. You’re still bored but now you have the beginning of a piece of satirical fan fiction.
The hyperconnectivity of our digital age means we never have to be bored. Connection to people or things of interest are available to us at our fingertips. We are tempted at every opportunity to fill the silent spaces of our days with something: television, radio, the internet, mobile devices.
We are bombarded with the white noise of static and information at every moment. Within the cacophony of noise, there is great value in the conversations we have with people, the information we glean about the world around us.
Yet when we are doing nothing we feel guilty about our inactivity.
We don’t allow ourselves to become bored.
For some, boredom comes in watching cricket or tennis or football or *insert your own sporting dislike* or bonnet dramas, reading vampire novels, watching the Year 2 recorder group butcher a piece of music (the recorder in the hands of a child is a tool of Satan, says my sister).
But, boredom does something.
Boredom creates stillness.
Boredom creates silence.
Boredom creates opportunities.
It allows the subconscious to pause and catch a breath.
It allows the subconscious to percolate, meditate, compost new ideas or provide new solutions to old problems.
As a teacher I see in my students an inability to be creative because they have not grown up in an environment where they have been allowed to be bored. Children are continually entertained, visually and aurally stimulated, given activities to do at the first whine emitting from their mouth, “I’m bored.”
Let your child do nothing.
When they say “I’m bored” it’s an opportunity for them to be creative and solve their own problems. Or if you have to give them something to do, limit the options. Give them a handful of textas and tell them they can only use the red, orange and purple ones.
Depth in creativity, and the depth and development of ideas comes because you’ve had time to let an idea sit and develop.
How do you let an idea sit and develop? Have you thought of a place where you can be bored?
Think of all the domestic chores you have: the washing up, the vacuuming, hanging out the washing, folding or ironing, washing the car or mowing the lawn. These are great places to be bored.
How about during your exercise workout at the gym as you run in the same spot, trampling a rotating piece of plastic under your feet, but never achieving distance. A great place to be bored.
I use the washing up as my Boredom Place. A good friend of mine, Jodi, calls it “sudspiration.” In the mundane, repetitive activity of washing the dishes, my brain is allowed space to think. I find it’s a great way to allow ideas come to the surface. It’s just a pain to stop mid way, dry your hands, find a pen and scribble down notes. I really must get a dictaphone or Dragonspeak.
Let yourself become bored.
Boredom is the new meditative mantra for creative people.
Artists, if you’re bored, doodle something.
Musicians, if you’re bored, practice scales or arpeggios.
Writers, if you’re bored, write nonsensical sentences.
Or better still: Do Nothing.
Go and be bored.