‘If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving you don’t actually live longer, it just seems longer.’
Sometime today you’re going to get bored. And it won’t be pretty.
You’re going to feel foggy. Anxious. Even scared.
When we’re bored the clock doesn’t move. We feel trapped. We’ll do anything to get un-bored.
We turn on iTunes or watch mindless TV.
We have sex. (Okay, that one’s good.)
In short, we find boredom so uncomfortable we’ll look for anything to keep from going nuts.
Erich Fromm, who noted that man is the only animal that can be bored, called boredom “perhaps the most important source of aggression and destructiveness.”
Maybe that’s why the other big alternative to being bored is drinking- a hazard to which writers seem especially prone.
How especially prone?
Well, of America’s seven Nobel laureates, five were lushes. Not to mention lesser scribblers like Hunter Thompson, Stephen King, Kingsley Amis, John Cheever, Jack Kerouac, and a hundred more.
There’s even a book of writers’ drink recipes, including Hemingway’s Mojito, Faulkner’s mint juleps and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s gin.
But — and this is huge — there’s another way. A way so surprising it’s never mentioned.
Like the dreamer’s brain, the bored brain is anything but quiet. Circuits fire and different parts of the cortex link up as it wages an all-out battle to be productive. It remembers. It daydreams. It time travels. It plots. It creates scenarios.
Most important, it forms new connections.
Because the bored brain imagines what could be, boredom becomes not just the precursor to creativity but essential to it. When people are bored they look for changes to the way things are, and the way they’ve been done a thousand times before.
Which is why the answer to boredom is NOT distraction.
It’s to live with the boredom long enough to let the brain create new ideas – ideas that can take flight.
Need convincing? Take a look at Boredom: A Lively History
In it, author Peter Toohey describes 3,000 years of humans coping with boredom, from Australian Aborigines, to Romans, to today’s artists. The audience for the book, says Amazon.com, is “anyone interested in what goes on when nothing happens.”
What do you think? Can you see yourself sinking into boredom for a while to come up with creative ideas?