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How Boredom Promulgates Creativity

28 November 2012

From TriplePundit:

 One might think that boredom doesn’t create creativity and success in the business world, but contrary to belief, it does. According to Baroness Greenfield, an eminent neuroscientist at Oxford University, “Boredom encourages creativity. Children’s bedrooms littered with bears receiving emergency treatment or dolls circumnavigating the turbulent ‘carpet seas’ are everyday evidence of how boredom fires the imagination.”

The same sort of inspiration is created in the business world vis-à-vis boredom.  This is all related to a phenomenon that’s been identified by Edward de Bono, the legendary creative thinker.  He calls it the “creative pause.”

In de Bono’s book, Serious Creativity, he asserts that even when things are going along, well, swimmingly, “some of the best results come when people stop to think about things that no one else has stopped to think about.”  Most people are unaware of what creative pauses are.  They are happening wherever people are solving problems.  They occur among CEOs, design directors, small-business entrepreneurs, and commonplace jobs.  The creative pause allows the space for your mind to drift, to imagine and to shift, opening it up to new ways of seeing.

However, the “creative pause” might soon become a thing of the past.  Boredom forces you to ponder and extrapolate on ideas plain and simple. But, boredom is at the tipping point to becoming extinct because of technology. We are always interacting or playing with a piece of technology in our down time where we would be “bored” normally.  This negates our creativity and the ideation processes that would naturally occur.

Link to the rest at TriplePundit

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21 Comments to “How Boredom Promulgates Creativity”

  1. Love this article. Many people ask where I get my inspiration for my novels. I try to tell them something exciting, but most of them come from the kitchen sink. My mind wanders when I’m doing mundane tasks like washing dishes. Giving your mind time to wander is a boon to creativity.

  2. Another upvote.

    I can *make* myself sit and think up story ideas, but the best ones come to me when I’m not thinking about anything in particular. Wanting to try something new has led me into various interests and hobbies which have greatly enriched and enweirded my life.

    There’s almost no place left anymore where all you can do is cogitate to no purpose. We already have toilet-tronics (iPads etc.) The day that Internet access becomes standard in showers, Western civilization may come to an innovative halt. There’ll be nowhere left to think.

  3. I get my best plotting done in the shower, while doing the dishes, or during long car rides. Creativity will never be submerged by technology. Just look at all the amazing things that bored college students create WITH technology and then put on Imgur.

  4. Eric Hoffer wrote about this 60 years ago.

  5. There’s a lesson here: creative people need boring jobs.

    • That’s true. I had an insanely tedious job involving paperwork for awhile. It paid the bills and I spent 90% of my time daydreaming. My coworker once exploded in frustration and demanded how I could get through it. My answer was basically “I’m not here.” I then discovered she had never daydreamed. When her mind was idling it was making up grocery lists and chores to do after work. I “taught” her to daydream and it was a revelation to her. And a lesson to me that everybody’s different.

      • I was a bank teller in the summers when I was in college. Everybody else hated the drive-up window and gladly let “the summer kid” man it.

        That was the best job I ever had, in many respects.

        Either there’s somebody at the drive-up or there isn’t. This was a detached island, so unlike the other tellers, I couldn’t do clerical work when I wasn’t serving a customer. All I could do was sit and think, or read a book. (I was allowed to read books if I kept it quiet.) They paid me for that. And at the drive-up, you can’t see the line, so if I was working, I was working, and I worked until there were no more customers. Made me no never mind if there was one or fifty. They couldn’t glare at me. 🙂

    • This is so true for me. I had a job where I spent most of my day problem solving, where thinking and decision-making was required for almost everything I did. I was mentally exhausted when I came home and writing anything creative was such a chore on those days. I can do chores around the house, and when I sit down, I’m ready.

      Also, the mention of technology brings up something I was thinking about just the other day. I used to go to sleep and wake up thinking about my stories, but then I started taking my phone to bed with me, LOL, for reading at night, and in the morning, I always feel compelled to reach for it and check my email right off and then my rss feeds, and then of course, I usually start reading again. It stole something from me, creatively speaking, and I think I’m going to start leaving the phone elsewhere. If I want to read, I have other options, and that phone tempts me to keep every second of my time occupied with email, chat, texting, internet, rss feeds, etc.

      I miss those early morning plot epiphanies. 😉 I think this article highlights where we’re headed if we don’t take action.

  6. Boredom is CRITICAL to the creative process. Always has been. Being bored forces your mind to escape. It forces thinking time.

    I wrote about this last year on my blog:

  7. Can I just say that I find the notion that modern society has done away with boredom absolutely adoooooorable. It’s one of those sweeping, trite phrases that sounds thoughtful but completely misses the point that when a lot of people are browsing the web THEY ARE STILL COMPLETELY BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS.

    20 years ago they were writing this crap about television. 20 years from now – no wait, I’m going to change that to FIVE years from now – they’ll be saying it about something else, only they REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME.

    So… Apparrently I had an opinion about that.

    • Ah, but I think the thing about technology, like what I wrote above is that it can be carried everywhere with us, like I carry my phone around–I really need to stop that–and gives us a super easy way to deal with the boredom. I find it much easier to check my email and read something intriguing from one of the RSS feeds I follow than to spend that same time wondering how my hero is going to get himself out of the mess he’s in. 🙂 That’s all. Those more disciplined probably handle the proliferation of devices that are easy to use and carry around a lot better. I often have attention/focus issues and don’t always handle it well. Take my turn on Words With Friends or stare at the ceiling and think at 6 in the morning? Oh, and maybe my friend emailed me back overnight and maybe PG posted something cool already this morning… 🙂

    • But it was true about television too. And still is.

      That doesn’t mean it’s quality diversion, but if you were really bored with TV… you’d turn it off. You wouldn’t have to tell yourself “Turn this off, there’s nothing on but crap,” you’d just do it.

      What television intentionally does, and the internet does more naturally, is create a kind of urgency. You’re always focused when you feel a sense of urgency. Never bored.

      That famous XKCD cartoon where the guy can’t go to bed because Someone Is Wrong On The Internet? That guy is not bored. He’s wasting his time, but he’s not bored.

      • Ha! I remember that cartoon, I had it up on the wall for awhile!

        “That guy is not bored. He’s wasting his time, but he’s not bored.”

        I prefer the term “comfortable with his introvert-ness”. It makes me think I’d be a good prisoner for some reason.:)

      • If it were true, television would have killed creativity. It didn’t. I’m 41, a product of television, and so is every other creative person my age or younger, at least in the United States, whether we like it or not.

        If it were true, the adoption of the Internet would have killed creativity instead of creating a BOOM of it. Because it’s an outlet, we have webcomics, online music, webfiction, self publishing, mashups (which is unique to the post-internet world) and we have them in far greater quantities with more accessibility than ever before.

        If the Internet is killing creativity, why is there so much stuff? If the presence of so much stuff is killing our ability to create more stuff, why is there still more stuff?

        • Christopher,

          The answer to your question is obvious;

          What we need is some form of giant bureaucracy full of people who safeguard the content of the internet, filtering it so only the highest quality information gets thru to the masses. Once a content creator is approved by these…lets call them “gate-keepers”…they will be rewarded with some government cheese and a nice pat on the head.

          This way we can all be entertained in a safe and quality assured manner with little effort and time wasted on things such as…choice…and uh…free will.

          I mean, how can you not see that? Duh. 🙂

        • I think you miss the point here. It isn’t the existence of TV or the internet, it’s the addiction to those things.

          Not everybody who eats fast food will become obese, not everyone who drinks becomes an alcoholic. But that doesn’t meant these things are something you should consume without restraint.

          It isn’t that TV is bad. Or the internet is bad. It’s the ability to be endlessly satisfied which creates an unintended consequence. You have to deal with a situation of abundance differently than you do in a situation of scarcity. That’s demonstrable.

          Oh, I went looking and found this interesting TED lecture/video on internet porn addiction which is related to this discussion.


  8. I hate being bored! But, I’m not bored very often. I tend to find my own thoughts interesting, and I’m rarely not thinking.

    For me, it’s not boredom that is essential to the creative process. It’s unfilled time. I need time when I’m not focused on something else.

    I don’t watch TV. (Thank goodness!) But I find the internet a distraction. I like the internet community – easy to get isolated in my writer cave without it – but I find it challenging to devote the right amount of time to it (and not more). I do best when I write before I open up the browser! Not like today! (Get back to that short story, JM!)

    • I am very easily bored.

      This is compensated for by the fact that I am very easily Amused.

      If I find myself in the mental state of boredom, it lasts only so long as it takes for me to realize that I am bored. Then I start doing something which isn’t boring. Or at least thinking about something which isn’t boring. But to paraphrase Dogbert, “I don’t see how anyone with access to the Internet ever gets bored.” Which is kind of the problem the OP is referring to.

  9. That’s why I love my job as a paramedic. Long hours of boredom punctuated by moments of adrenaline. Plus all the horror stories and human interaction which gets cataloged in my brain. Seriously, I work a 24 hr shift and on days which aren’t busy and after the station duties are done, I get to do whatever I want. Which is usually read or write or play on my laptop. Which has its own hotspot so I have privacy from my employer’s internet.

    I also carry a paper notebook with me at all times, so when I’m waiting I can write all those lovely thoughts, scenes and dialogue down to be transposed later. My mind wanders quite often unless something really interesting is going on. I can absorb a lot of data without paying full attention most of the time, unless it’s complex data.

    I guess that’s why I’m a medic, ’bout the only thing that my brain wants to pay attention to that doesn’t have to do with my friends/family or in my own head. Plus the rapid fire creative problem solving on ems scenes really challenges it. It loves that! It gets to devote its full power to thinking outside of the box with very little information, often with lives on the line. Woo! Talk about invigorating! Then I go back to the station and zone out for a while. Love it! And yes I’m talking about my brain as a separate entity. It often feels like it’s doing its own thing without my permission and I’m along for the ride. LOL!

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