As a lawyer, I’m required to attend annual continuing education classes and recently I sat in on a two-day seminar on an area of my practice. Although very valuable on the whole, there are inevitably two or three presentations that are too dry to hold my interest. In one such presentation my boredom reached a point where my mind began to drift and I was no longer engaged with the activity going on around me. And because I was in a situation where I couldn’t distract myself with Facebook, texting, email, etc., my boredom allowed me to drift into . . . my creative space. Ideas started forming. I pulled out my notepad and began to explore an idea for a new short story. By the time the presentation had ended, I had a rough draft of some fiction that I was excited about.
When I’m not trapped in such a setting, I resist allowing my boredom to last. Now—more than ever–It’s easy to alleviate our boredom through social media, television, books, music or a thousand other things. None of those things are bad, but my forced restrictions that day reminded me the value of resisting these urges from time to time—to allow the boredom to open the doors to what is normally so easy to drown out—our inner creativity.
In the state of boredom we are pushed to turn inward, to ponder, to drift, to contemplate, to explore. And this is the place where new ideas, new solutions for our businesses, new directions for our art and our “ah-ha” moments are giving the freedom to show themselves to us. Like a child trying to get our attention on a busy traffic corner, they can’t be heard until all the movement, honking, and exhausts disappears.
Allow yourselves these moments. Let the discomfort of boredom be the small price you pay for the valuable insights and ideas that spring from it. Boredom is the mental equivalent of a painter staring at blank canvas or a writer a blank page and wondering where to begin. This feeling hovers be between soft anxiety and out-and-out fear. Don’t run away from it. Here are a few suggestions to spark the gifts of boredom:
- When you arrive early and are waiting on someone, leave your phone in your pocket. Just be still and wait.
- If you are a runner, every once in a while run alone, without your ipod. Be silent within the movement.
- Carve out time to go to a coffeeshop, park, or anywhere quiet that takes effort and time to get to and bring only a notepad and pen. Make a commitment to stay at least twenty minutes.
- If you feel really stuck, commit to a retreat, away from home and somewhere in nature with no TV, phone or internet connection. This (from my experience) is surprisingly uncomfortable at first and extremely rewarding by the end.
Boredom has a bad reputation, but can be a very valuable tool. Take advantage and use that tool. You might be surprised what gifts are hidden inside you waiting to be given voice.
My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian
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