How Being Bored is the First Step to Being Brilliant

Take their Gameboys away, and you don’t think they’ll come up with something interesting to do?

I ran across a great blog post this morning from The Passive Voice that I thought was worth noodling about. The premise is “How Boredom Promulgates Creativity.” Aside from the fact that the headline uses the word “promulgate” which will surely give tingles of delight to all word lovers, the idea behind the post is that boredom can create the right atmosphere for creative thought or action.  Edward De Bono, who wrote the book, Serious Creativity, which prompted the original post, uses bored children who operate on their teddy bears as one example of how humans hate a vacuum and might come up with ways—desperate and mad genius ways sometimes—in order to fill it. While this thought might not feel new to you, the upshot (or punch line) that made me sit up straight when I read it was the idea that our technology today may shield us from so much boredom, that the opportunity or driven need to create in order to remedy the boredom no longer exists. Trust me, playing Angry Birds or Solitaire on your smartphone may painlessly while away the time it takes to wait at a traffic light or your child’s visit to the orthodontist—but so does a coma. Neither of them is going to lead to anything special.

When we are forced to tackle boredom via creative means, we push ourselves, our abilities, and our minds forward. We go places we aren’t normally compelled to go. We explore. When we have the means to comfortably anesthetize ourselves against these spates of nonproductive, dull times, we are no longer motivated to do any more than just breathe in and out. My husband argued that we’ve always had mindless television to aid in combatting boredom for an extremely nonproductive outcome and that this post’s supposition is nothing new but I disagree. When I was a teenager—and like most teenagers, prone to being terminally bored with just about everything—I would watch any number of mind-numbing and idiotic television shows: Hogan’s Heroes, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeanie. But these shows didn’t dope me against the monotony which drove me to watch them. As I watched—even the really stupid shows—I soaked up plotting, I registered tension and denouement, I experienced character arcs—even in cartoon characters—and I walked away with a sense of a story told with a beginning, a middle and an end.

A little bit of boredom and a stick of chalk can add up to something very interesting…

For a budding writer, lowbrow television was a training ground for something that would come later. It was establishing dormant triggers which would lay beneath the surface and focus a light on interlaced connections between people at their most basic levels. And someday they would emerge as developed characters wrestling with conflict in an attempt to deliver a fundamental human message.

You can’t say that about Angry Birds.

What do you think? I’m not sure I’ve convinced my son, for example, about the new perniciousness of our portable technology as it relates to creativity. Thoughts?

Passing the Baton on the Reality Blog Award

Last week Matthew Wright awarded me the Reality Blog Award. I was surprised and, of course, delighted. Thank you, Matthew. His is my favorite, number-one most-read blog so it’s annoying I can’t turn around and nominate him for this award since nominating awesome bloggers is a part of the responsibility of winning it, but there you have it.

The award also requires me to answer several questions:

If you could change something what would you change? Well, I have to say I’m not in love with this whole mortality thing so if we could all live forever, well, that would be great.

If you could relive one day what would it be? This one was a stumper for me. I guess I don’t dwell much in the past. I’ve had wonderful days that I’d happily relive: the day I eloped to Chicago with my now-husband of 22 years, the day I gave birth to my only child, the first time I saw the Bavarian Alps when I was ten…but I guess I would have to choose, over all of them, any day with my Dad, gone now these past 25 years.

The one thing that scares you? A phone call in the middle of any night that my child isn’t sound asleep in his own bed in my house.

One dream you haven’t completed? I’m in the middle of my dream right now—making a living as a novelist.

If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be? Myself, twenty years younger.

As for passing the award on, I’ve listed, below,  some blogs I regularly read. Some of these are about facts and insights on publishing or writing, some are amazingly spot-on revelations about life (Post Departum Depression—(Karen) who focuses on empty nesting, but the posts are usually true no matter where you are in life and not depressing at all (a lot of the time)), and France because of that whole life-long love affair thing I’ve got going on with it.

Merry Farmer

Julian East

Dean Wesley Smith

Post Departum Depression

David Lebovitz

Roni Loren

Easy Hiker