There’s something inside of us that’s afraid of boredom. The second we feel boredom, we either try to kill it, by pulling out our phones, checking Facebook, or reading the news; or numb it, by watching TV or drinking alcohol. We turn to something else to distract us from the emptiness of downtime. Boredom whispers that others’ lives are more exciting, that we’re not that special, that we’re just human, that we’re mortal. No wonder we want to run away from it.
But it’s in boredom that our brains have space to be creative. It’s in boredom that questions rise up from within us, that pearls of ideas get strung together into the outline of a story, that a melody passing through the air chooses to alight on our ears. It’s in the discomfort of boredom that we learn to sit with what’s inside ourselves, to love it and to make art from it. If we don’t cultivate the empty time for boredom, inspiration has no room to grow into something big enough that we can hear it.
I’ve learned a bit about boredom lately. I gave up alcohol “for Lent,” and while I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this when it’s over, the primary lesson so far is dealing with boredom. I’m still doing the same things I was doing previously, going to dance parties and lots of concerts, just now I’m going over-caffeinated instead of buzzed. As it turns out, these kinds of events involve a lot of awkward moments and standing around. Sober, I can’t ignore the boredom. The boredom has forced me to reconcile with who I really am. And when I get past my own self-consciousness, my mind wanders into creating stories with a new intensity.
Sit with your boredom. Make it your friend. There may just be a shy idea or two hiding inside of it.