That’s not what *I* mean…

Observing from today’s accumulated data, I was a lot more tired out from my vacation than I had noticed. Still, rhythms placed in context are reasserting themselves. Perhaps I’m learning some things-!

Part of my morning includes reading snippety-things during and after breakfast: the newspaper first, then email, then magazines or blogs, or magazines and blogs. Facebook used to climb into snippety-time, but it’s now relegated to after lunch; Twitter still comes in occasionally, but I’m suspicious of my motives. But blogs? Blog posts are untethered magazine articles. Totally legit, even if Lifehacker is like Real Simple with fewer pictures.

One of today’s snippets had a perfect click-bait headline: “Being bored is perfect for children–and adults. This is why.” Certain of my children will assure you that I could have been a source for the article, that my snark on the subject dug grooves in her psyche. So I’m all in. Click!

At the same time, I started thinking about boredom as I can construct it inside my current life. I mean, my schedule will permit me to straight-up sit (or stand) staring at a wall for a half-hour or so on many days. I don’t; I actively avoid staring at walls under any circumstances. I carry books everywhere I go, so I can at least read during any lull. I take a notebook with me, too, though that’s more for emergency idea capture. (Those wily ideas escape completely if one is not quick with a pencil.) And I began this book/notebook practice when I was…in elementary school? The book-toting may have started earlier.

So I have no idea: is boredom good for humans? Maybe I’m missing something when my foot starts drumming on the floor and my hand twitchily reaches for printed material. Let’s read, and find out!

Annnd…the article does not extol actual boredom. The article extols unstructured time. More than that, the article extols self-directed time, or a combination of the two. This, my friends, is precisely the suffering I inflicted on my children when I (a) left sections of their lives unplanned and (b) refused to be drawn into discussions of “I’m booorrrrred. What should I doooooo?” My mother modeled this beautifully: the answer should always be, “You could clean up your room.” Quickest buzz-kill there is, and I know of few better spurs for creativity. “No, Mom, that’s OK. I’ll figure something out.”

I agree, unstructured time is essential for creative flow. Task-directed time gives the brain a project that seldom pulls out something new, so poems and other creations need task-free time. Boredom it is! But wait. Later in the article the writer off-handedly notes that, “A study has even shown that, if we engage in some low-key, undemanding activity at same time, the wandering mind is more likely to come up with imaginative ideas and solutions to problems.”

Ho, ho, ho, what have we here? Staring at the wall might, in fact, not be the way to go! +1 Kimbol’s intuition! Also props to Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way daily walks, which are one form of low-key, undemanding activity. I’ve also had success with laundry management, though I’ve not gotten the mileage out of dish-washing that others seem to.

-1 Kimbol’s constant reader proclivities, though. Reading is a prescribed brain-project. “There’s no room for following your own thoughts,” as Ms. Cameron says in a different post.

So perhaps there is merit to honest-to-goodness boredom. I’ll let you know when I get desperate enough to try it out.

Leave a Comment