The Boring Post

30 November 2018 on Storystorm  

This fall, during a very, very long run, I wrote an entire story in my head. At its start, I had an inkling of an idea, and by its end, I had mapped out its scenes, its dialogue, its themes, and ending image.

I was phoneless, so I had no music, podcasts, calls or texts to distract me, and completely alone, as none of my friends like running that far. For miles and miles, I had nothing to do but daydream, which probably sounds very boring, because it is, but sometimes boring is what I need. In fact, it’s often critical for my brain to produce anything creative.

Google “boredom” and “creativity” in the same search and you’ll find endless articles and studies backing the notion. My favorite of those links is journalist and author Manoush Zomorodi’s 2017 TED Talk, “How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas,” which starts with a discovery Zomorodi made about having a baby that would only sleep while being pushed in a carriage. During those long, very boring walks, her brain was firing with ideas. When the walks were over, and she finally got that brand-new iPhone that would help her be a work-at-home mom, the ideas disappeared.

I really do believe fresh air and exercise can provoke better thinking – and as a result, better writing – but there’s something in the fact that, if you walk far enough, you’re probably going to get bored at some point. J.K. Rowling didn’t think up Harry Potter during a walk, but while traveling via train from Manchester to London. She had no pen, and so during that four-hour ride, she had nothing to do but dream up her mega-successful book series.

Neuroscientists told Zomorodi that daydreaming allows you to think beyond the conscious and into the subconscious, which as a result, allows the brain to make different, more complex connections. If you’re constantly stimulated and moving your attention from one thing to another, your brain is actually working very hard and less efficiently.

I’m not going to pretend I did anything close to the kind of research Zomorodi did in regards to boredom and creativity, but I think it all makes sense. When I give myself space to think, the ideas come fast. When I’m overloaded with stimulation, the creativity disappears.

Don’t have time to be bored? Turn off your phone. Drive in silence. Put away the headphones while walking the dog, exercising, performing housework or yard work. Get a little bored, and instead of digging for those creative ideas, they might just come to you.

Kelly Sennott is Barnstorm's nonfiction editor. 



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