If you are like most people nowadays, you probably avoid boredom like the plague. From a young age, we tend to be taught that boredom is a negative state. Consequently, we learn to become dreadfully uncomfortable with boredom as we do our utmost to fight it every step of the way.
These days in the battle against boredom, social media and the internet in general have become our most used weapons against the perceived badness of boredom. Every spur minute we get, we fill it with checking Twitter and Facebook, or surfing the web on our phones and tablets in search of something–anything–that will stop us feeling bored for longer than a second.
But the truth is, the majority of the time, we have no need to fight against boredom. Boredom is not a negative state, and in actual fact, boredom can be a very helpful and creative state to be in.
As a writer, if you are not taking advantage of your periods of boredom, then you are missing out on the chance to exercise your creativity, and possibly missing out on ideas and flashes of insight that wouldn’t have made themselves known otherwise.
If you want to maximize your creative potential, it is time to stop thinking of boredom as something negative and to start thinking of it as something highly positive.
Far from being negative, boredom is a gift. It represents a chance to commune with your subconscious–with your creative self–and to be receptive to the creative gifts that can come from that communion.
It is really too bad that the society we live in today seems set up to keep us away from being “bored” as much as possible. Our world has become, in large part, nothing more than a giant distraction to keep us from, as I said, being bored. But what that really means, is that society is designed to keep people from thinking too much (or not at all), to stop people from turning inward to explore the vastness and majesty of their own minds and the riches that can be found there.
But hey, let’s not get all “fuck the system” right now. I’ll save that shit for another article…
Onward we go instead…
Stop Fighting Against Boredom And Reap The Benefits Of It Instead
In a recent study into the effects of boredom, researchers from the University of Central Lancashire set up an experiment that involved having a group of people copying numbers from a phone book for fifteen minutes. An obviously boring task. Afterwards, the group of people were asked to complete a task that required them to come up with different uses for a set of cups.
What the researchers found in this experiment, was that the group who copied phone numbers for fifteen minutes did much better on the cups task than those who didn’t do anything beforehand. The copying group showed more creativity in their uses for the cups than did the non-copying group.
The experiment was later repeated with a larger group of participants and the results were found to be the same. The more “bored” participants did better on the test and showed more creativity.
So what can we conclude from these experiments?
The experiments show that boredom can raise your creativity and help you think outside the box when it comes to problem solving and being innovative.
As a writer, that should be good news to you, for it means you can use boredom to help you solve any problems that come up in your writing, such as plot or character problems.
But How Do You Go About Using Boredom To Your Advantage?
Firstly, you will need to take some time off from your social media accounts, or whatever other things are distracting you.
You need to sit and do nothing. Then just let your mind wander.
It’s that simple.
Let your mind wander wherever it wants to go and see where it takes you. Quite often, your mind will take you to new and interesting places where you can experience clarity on a problem that has been bugging you, or insight into something you are working on.
If you like, you can also direct your mind, gently, where you want it to go, by first of all thinking about a particular problem you might have. Then you would simply allow your mind to wander free after that. You could also start with a question like:
“What’s the meaning of…”
You get the idea. The questions are just prompts to stat you on your exploration of inner space.
If you are a writer, you need time to think. You need to regularly mull things over so you can feed and direct your subconscious, afterwards allowing your subconscious to work in the background. When you next sit down to think, you can then extract what your subconscious has come up with into your conscious mind.
I’ll admit, I can be as averse to boredom as anybody. Half the time, I have to pry my fucking iPhone from my hand, but when I do, great things happen. Just last night, I put my phone to one side and sat and thought about the next novel I wanted to write. At that point, I had no idea of what direction the novel would take. But within five minutes of sitting thinking and letting my mind just throw things up, I had an almost complete outline of a novel in my head! It all just came to me! From sitting still and distraction free for five fucking minutes!
Imagine the ideas you could come up with if you made a point of sitting for a period every day and just thinking? If you let yourself get bored and your mind to wander?
That should be a daily practice for every writer.
As Neil Gaiman once said:
Boredom is the place you create from in self defense.
Start Seeing Boredom As A Completely Creative State
Boredom does not have to be a negative state. It doesn’t have to make you feel restless, fidgety and uncomfortable, at least not to the point where you just want to grab your iPhone and start thought-vomiting onto your Twitter page.
Change your perception of boredom. Begin to see it as a gift, as a highly creative state of being. As a chance to probe unexplored reaches of your mind, places where you might just end up finding the idea that will change your life forever.
To somewhat bastardize a Bruce Lee quote:
Be bored my friend!