Sometimes, in an attempt to make a positive change in our lives, we go straight for the thing that we want. Only this doesn’t always result in the desired outcome. Waking up early, for example, is going to be more possible if you start going to bed earlier. Focus on that, and rising early the next day will inevitably happen. The same goes for our creative work. For many of us, letting ourselves get bored is the first step before we can sit down and make our art.
The tricky thing about boredom is that we have access to infinite distractions. From our phones to more work to our ever-shortening attention spans, it’s easy to not create. Making your art can feel like an uphill battle. Which is hard and uncomfortable. Getting distracted, however, is immediately gratifying even if it does leave a hollow feeling in your body afterwards. So you get distracted and your art suffers as a result.
Recently, I’ve been developing my ability to get bored before bed. Once an avid reader, now I rarely make it through anything that isn’t an audiobook. Hoping to guilt myself back into reading, I keep a stack of books beside my bed. They’ve been sitting there untouched for months. It wasn’t until I set hard limits around turning off all screens at the end of my workday that I have begun to make my way through the pile. What I needed was to be bored enough to read.
In many ways, this breaks my heart. I used to rush to reading out of excitement. And while I’m just as hungry as I ever was for information and stories, I have been seeking easier avenues of consumption. Which is out of integrity with who I know myself to be as a creative and as a human. So I’m learning to get comfortable with being bored again, knowing full well that when given no other option, I will eventually reach for a book or a pen or a puppet.
Being bored is an act of rebellion. It invites space for new ideas to emerge. It allows us to choose to do the difficult work of making art. When we let ourselves get bored, we let ourselves tap into the creative flow of the world. We’re able to listen for what needs to be said instead of flooding ourselves with what other people are already saying. Being bored isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s an essential part of having an impact as a creative.
The more I let myself get bored, the more the noise around me feels less appealing. Scrolling through social media isn’t as satisfying as completing the next step of a creative project. Always doing something isn’t as energizing as pausing to take in the moment and remind myself that this is all temporary. Most importantly, the more boredom I build into my life, the more clear and focused I am when I sit down to make my art.
So, how do does being bored help your creative work?