Why Being Bored is Best for Creativity

Why being bored is best for creativity. Find out why spacing out may be good for you! Wellness and Self Care, Positivity and inspiration, Creativity, Books, Writing and blogging tips #selfcare #creativity #inspiration #writingtips #bloggingtips

The best way to be more creative may include adding a little boredom to your day.

Creativity is the opposite of boredom and seems counterproductive, right? Everyone wants to create something new whether it’s for your brand, product, or in your plain old thought process which can easily become a loop like TV news station. “This just in! You screwed up again.” A new book, Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi explains how being bored and spacing out is linked with creativity. What?

Avoiding boredom.

I hate being bored. Must of us try to avoid it. We plug into to our computers, TV, and phones. We’re busier than ever. When I’m not writing, I’m marketing, adventuring, socializing, taking care of myself, my family, my home, yada, yada, yada. This leaves me very little time to sit around and space out.

Cell phones replace downtime and keep us from being bored.

My phone has become my constant companion and an integral part of my existence. I’m not a gamer, nor am I constantly checking text messages, stats, or social media, but I check on them often enough. Plus, I use my phone to take pictures.

One time, I almost missed a flight because I thought I left my phone in the car. I ran all the way back to the parking lot. When I arrived at the car, I peeked inside and instantly remembered plugging it in at home to charge it the night before. Oopsy. While racing to the wrong end of the terminal (by accident), it occurred to me how I had risked my flight for my phone! It felt weird to be without it all weekend.

Thing is, phones take up the slack of downtime so we’re never bored. Other than when our heads hit the pillow, that state of mind is practically a thing of the past. We are always plugged in, overstimulated, or interacting with someone.

We’re addicted to the endorphin rush too. Think about it. You post a photo. Someone likes it. Wow. You check back in a few minutes and few more have liked it. Yes. That’s a good feeling. Same thing with posts, comments, just about any interacting on social media.

Many people are becoming addicted to cell phones and video games. The stress is making them sick.

Our monkey brains need time to process what happens, to problem solve and to create.

An illustration of my brain on inspiration.

So, when am I bored? While walking my dog on a familiar route, taking a shower, cleaning, and doing laundry. Anytime I’m doing mindless repetitive tasks.

Now tell me when you have your brilliant ideas? Do they hit you upside your head while you’re on a conference call, scrolling through Instagram, or playing a video game? No. Because your brain is active. Get where I’m going with this?

How Manoush discovered the link between creativity and boredom.

Manoush had a hectic life as a journalist. She took time off when she had a baby and became really bored. While she pushed her stroller several miles a day through New York City, her creativity exploded. She came up with a great idea for a podcast.

As soon as she changed gears and started to set everything into motion, coordinating, preparing, and researching, the ideas vanished. Poof! She went into panic mode since she had to come up with new show ideas. That’s when Manoush discovered creativity and boredom were related. The book includes a ton of research to back it up.

Being bored is the best environment for creativity.

That was a mind-blown moment for me.

I thought back on when my ideas bubble up. While driving to the grocery store, cleaning my kitchen, before sleeping at night. The best ideas would come from nowhere when I wasn’t trying to solve a problem.

I’m always trying to fill time by being productive. Now that I know spacing out is a good thing, I try to take time to do nothing. What a concept.

Make space for creativity.

My son, Kelly, tells me that all the time. He took a creativity class at Icon Collective which covered the importance of doing nothing. It feels counterproductive, but it works!

Let yourself be bored. Sit and space out for a while. Can’t sit still? Do repetitive tasks that don’t require your brain to do any heavy lifting. Let go of constructive thinking.

Let your creative mind wander. You never know where boredom might lead you!

Sit on a park bench. Chill out. Europeans have this part down.

park in Paris

Cell phones are very handy for all kinds of obvious reasons but at a cost. Studies show, even if your phone is face down on a table, it has a negative effect. Its sheer presence is enough to hinder conversation. We must subliminally know that we will be interrupted at some point.

Want to know where your time is being spent on your iPhone? Go to Settings. Click on Battery. Scroll down and take a gander.

Many writers walk. Chuck Dickens was known for long ones. Part of the reason was to meet with some of the downtrodden who became the heart of his books. The other part probably to let his brilliant brain percolate.

I met RL Stein who said that he walks his dog every afternoon. I wonder if he gets new ideas for creepy tales from his familiar route.

Now when I’m in the car, or doing laundry, or walking Roxy, I don’t think with purpose. I don’t focus on a particular scene for revision nor do I try to pick apart any other problems. I just let my brain buzz around and do its thing.

Did you know about the link between boredom and creativity? Do you take time to space out and let your mind wander?

For more of the Wild Ride, click here!

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84 thoughts on “Why Being Bored is Best for Creativity

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    1. That is so cool, Tom! I had no idea. When my son mentioned doing nothing to induce creativity, I couldn’t imagine sitting and doing nothing. Now, I look forward to those quiet moments.
      Thanks so much, Tom!

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  1. You’re right about mindless, repetitive chores. I don’t like being in situations where I can’t do what I’d rather be doing, so thinking and creating is at least something we can do at times like that. Having a little notebook along is always helpful. Of course that doesn’t always work (like if you’re walking the dog or doing dishes) but waiting for appointments can be good for jotting down ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You make great points here. In her book Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande talks about mindless repetitive activities that help us tap the unconscious: knitting, walking, scrubbing floors… I worry about being too connected to my smart phone, and this is just one more reason to be careful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is a soul-sucking device. 🙂 Letting ourselves have the time to space out is very important for creatives. I’ve heard some best-selling authors talk about their process and some take a nap to get ideas. I will lay down sometimes, to reset my brain if it’s too loopy. It always works! Plus naps! Never too long though. About twenty minutes or I’m groggy afterward.
      Thanks, Kit! Just back from a writers conference and finally have time to catch up with comments!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think taking a break from the constant barrage of information is enough to get our minds percolating.
      Sorry it took so long to respond. I just back from a writers conference and finally have time to catch up!
      Thanks, Renee!

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  3. Too much quiet time can lead to my anxiety inventing things for it to eat. No thank you!

    Besides, most of my tablet time is spent reading (and ensuring I get in at least one lesson a day on Duolingo). If I’m purposefully being bored, I’m wasting precious reading time–and my mind doesn’t like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find it hard to sit and do nothing too. I find quiet time by folding clothes, doing dishes, vacuuming, cleaning, walking, or while crafting or doodling. It’s all about disconnecting from technology and learning in order to let our brains have some fun!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I get bored while doing repetitive tasks like cleaning, or driving. Now I just let my mind wander!
      Thanks, Linda! Just back from a writers conference and finally have time to catch up with comments!

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  4. This is a fascinating post, Susie! I’ve been simplifying my life, and notice that a feeling of boredom or flatness sometimes creeps in (occasionally, although momentarily, on heavenly hikes in the wilderness!) From my deepening meditation practice, I’m discovering that underneath the boredom is anxiety, and that both are harbingers of some profound transformation on the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never experienced anxiety while hiking, but I do get bored doing stuff I don’t particularly enjoy, like vacuuming, doing the laundry or driving. Our brain’s natural state is to become monkey-like and jump from topic to topic. That’s why our dreams are so very strange! If we don’t give them the downtime of menial repetitive tasks or by spacing out somehow, but fill the time by constantly checking our phones, watching TV, even reading, we cut down on our brilliant ideas! 🙂 I do find it hard to do nothing, so taking cleaning to a whole new level! Ha!
      I did read your comment a second time and think your meditation takes you to some pretty cool places! Transformation can be amazing!
      Thanks so much, Gail. I just returned from a writers conference and finally have time to catch up with comments!

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  5. This really makes sense. It’s sort of like you can’t see the forest for the trees. If you’re constantly doing something – say writing – you have to walk away for a little while in order to regain focus. Having tunnel vision is good if you need to focus intensely for a while, but doing that for long periods of time narrows your entire outlook on life (at least in my experience).

    Life isn’t about doing one thing all the time – like working. It’s about experiencing everything out there to experience. As the Lion King song says: There is more to be seen than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.

    Thanks for the reminder. I need to walk away from the computer for a bit now.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt
    Look for my debut novel On Common Ground due out in October.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You nailed it, Patricia! I love the metaphor of being too close up to see the whole picture. Our brains like to percolate so getting away to problem solve is imperative. I have definitely been a person who worked too hard. Now I take breaks guilt-free!
      Thanks for commenting! I left for a writers conference on Thursday and finally have time to catch up!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Right???? I’m a type A overachiever. Lol. Now I’m taking breaks and enjoying boredom like never before. I don’t think anyone will ever say that I was laid back though. Ha!
      Sorry it took so long to comment. I just got back from a writers conference. Talk about no down time! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. But that’s the best kind of task for creative thought! Hammering, painting, anything repetitive. It makes me think I should draw before writing. My mind always wanders!
      Thanks, Jan!
      Sorry it took so long to respond. I just got back from a writers conference. My brain reeeeeally needs downtime today. Lol!

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  6. Walking is serioulsy the best. Entire volumes have been written on walking. I was just listening to a report on NPR today where one guest mentioned that the best kind of collaboration is intermittent. Seems to be true across the spectrum. Great post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s super cool how people are willing to share their experiences so hyperfocused over-worked writers like me can take a break without guilt. Now I feel that break time is imperative to creativity!
      Thanks, MB!
      Sorry it took a while to comment. I attended a writers conference which started last Thursday. Talk about brain overload. Going to take a long break today. Lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good post. To your first half of your writing, “It’s good to be busy, but what are we busy about?” We turn off our phones over every weekend. To all the rest, you know that the people in this house earn our livings being creative. We have certain routines before we work. We do them religiously. It clears our heads. It helps get into a sports term, “zone.”

    What kind of routines? You know I photograph second line parades in New Orleans, mostly for me. I shave and shower before going out. The weather might be 90 degrees with 85% humidity. Who takes a shower before you go out to work in that? That’s the start of getting in my zone.

    Creativity comes out of that. Boredom makes me sluggish. But, that’s just me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point! I really like your idea of taking a shower, Ray. That’s a fantastic way to let your mind wander and get into the zone. I’ll have to remember that the next time I’m yawning in the middle of the afternoon! Plus, I’ve often had ideas pop into my head while water pounded on my back. I have a waterproof notebook in there just in case!
      Sorry it took so long to respond to your comment. I just returned from a writers conference and finally have time! Talk about brain overload. I plan on taking breaks over the next couple of days to let my mind simmer!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see it a little more Zenish. I kind of want to empty my head out and not think. Then I can photograph in my moment without thinking. We both do. that When Musical Miss is working we do the sound check and disappear… have a light dinner and go for a walk so that she can get her head ready. We usually return in the middle of the opener.

        Whatever it takes.

        No worries. When I used to go tp different conventions I used to just take the next day off and do manual tasks.

        This’ll make you laugh. When we return from tours after having stayed in hotels and having chambermaids clean up and never having cook, we head straight to our home bathrooms and scrub the toilets. That regrounds you immediately. 🙂

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        1. Yes. I should have taken the day off too, but plunged right back into revision mode. Finally looked at the time and took a walk. It really does clear my head.

          Ha! That last paragraph cracked me up! Yep. There’s nothing like reality to snap us out of being pampered while traveling.
          Thanks for stopping by, Ray!

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Knew about it and it works. I get my best ideas doing the ironing. Yes, I still iron. It’s repetitive. Walking is another time I get ideas. Sometimes when I am handwriting in my journal I can get a good idea. One friend of mine can be late for our writing group as the drive in gives her ideas for use in her novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Does she pull over to write down her ideas? Lol! Love it. I used to grab my phone when I would get an idea and dictate it while driving. It worked great as long as Siri didn’t spellcheck things too horrifically! Ha!
      Sorry it took so long to respond. I just returned from a 4-day writers conference. Talk about the need for quiet time. LOL!
      Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

  9. What an interesting way of thinking about boredom and honing in on the value of cultivating space for creativity. I don’t know that I ever think in terms of being bored. I can sit and watch the birds or listen to the sound of our waterfall and be thoroughly entertained. But I can also attest to feeling the pull of activity and too often rushing from one thing to the next. Lots to think about here, Susie, and I will. The book sounds worthy of attention. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Debra!
      It sounds like you are already doing the right thing. Some people are so plugged into their phones, they have no free time. The book was eye-opening for me! I used to feel guilty when taking breaks. Not anymore!
      Sorry it took a while to reply. My mind was being blown at a writers conference. Now I really need some downtime!

      Like

  10. I find it hard to allow myself to stay bored haha just like most people we always feel like we need to be busy and productive or we are just wasting time because that is what society has engraved into our heads! I agree that boredom and creativity go together. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Phoenix Ray!
      You and I are a lot alike. I feel guilty if I’m not working. Not anymore. Now I relish that downtime in order to come up with new ideas.
      Sorry it took a while to reply to your comment! I just returned from a writers conference where sensory overload rocketed to a whole new level. I plan on taking a few breaks this afternoon, so my poor cranium can process everything!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting post Susie and so very true. Mobile phones are the death of creativity as you no longer need any imagination for anything, just download the relevant app. We don’t have phone contracts so when we’re out our phones are just cameras and because of our lifestyle we spend so much time wandering and travelling slowly. Great for daydreaming and being creative. It’s good to be bored sometimes.

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    1. That is so great, Jonno! It sounds like you are in the brilliant zone already! So many people are totally addicted to their phones. I was at a writers conference this weekend and was surprised at how many writers left them in their rooms. Me included. I am just now responding to this post for the first time since Thursday morning!
      After everything I learned over the last four days, I need more downtime than ever to let my brain percolate.

      Thanks so much for weighing in!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the answer is ‘phone balance’ isn’t it? And I don’t how much money you have on it either. They are so useful but they really do get in the way of so many people experiencing life.

        Like

  12. Very true. I like the cellphone part. My phone was taken from me over a year ago and I haven’t gotten a new one yet. Since then my creativity and skills have really blossomed. I never really knew why, but now I do 🙂 Thanks.

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  13. I feel as if my mind has cleared after reading this. It makes so much sense on why I get all these great ideas (or at least what I would call great!) when I’m doing nothing or just taking a walk with my dog. I am definitely going to take a break from my phone after this. I need some creativity when I’m at school!

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    1. There you go! I’m so glad it helped. I often lay down for about twenty minutes to let my brain percolate. That helps me a lot. Forcing ideas is a very hard way to be creative.
      Thanks so much, Coded Belles! I hope you stop back again soon.

      Like

  14. The minute I sit to chill or close my eyes … pow! My head is full of everything. So yes boardom may be the wrong word but I know what is being said. The minute there is monotany or slobbing for a bit of peace, that is when I get a busy head .

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  15. I really relate to this. For example, when I am trying to think of ways to start an essay at school, my brain is too busy worrying about it that I can’t think of anything to write. Now, when I am sitting in my bedroom bored, I find out exactly how to start and finish my essay. Everything comes to me when I am bored and I have never noticed that until reading this post.

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  16. I heard portions of her TED talk on this topic during NPR’s podcast program the TED Radio Hour as I drove back from dropping my son off at camp this year. It immediately resonated with me.
    I think at least 50% of the reason why I keep running despite injury and such is how freeing it is to my thoughts. My body works hard, my mind runs free. It’s boring in the sense that I’m focused entirely on putting one foot in front of the other and the relative energy I have to use to keep running even though my lazy-self wants me to stop. But, dishes-doing, running, folding clothes, these tasks are all excellent invitations to creativity. I want to be sure there is some boredom in my son’s life too. We don’t give enough “space out” time for kids. It’s like they always have to be occupied. In her TED talk, Manoush talks about the effect of unplugging on young people–that they didn’t even recognize some of the emotions they felt when they weren’t connected. In other words, to experience life, we can’t mediate it through constant connection to devices and distractions, we have to do as Ferris Bueller famously said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around sometimes, you could miss it.”

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    1. Exactly. To someone who was raised without technology, it seems like a no-brainer. To the youth of today, it seems old-fashioned and counter-productive to their social life. I think there will be a boomarang effect. Hopefully. *crosses fingers*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Boredom and peacefulness can possibly be a mix. While I do the household chores, some ideas may strike me and have me pause to jot them down, but I can note it’s seldom. While I often jot more frequently while watching the pigeons (I have four living on my lanai), or oddly enough, cooking a large meal from scratch (which I also find joy in).

        My next blog will be touching on a similar topic…where do you write. It seems we, as writers, find our own space for creativity. And just because it’s not in a secluded office doesn’t mean it’s a poor space. It just may not be a space for another.
        Again, boredom/distration/life…no matter, will interfere…but the creativity will go on. 🙂

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        1. Thanks so much for your comment, Gloria! I don’t always have the creative inspiration while I’m walking, but it seems to percolate….then Pow! It’s usually a scene from the book I’m revising. Now, I’m really paying attention.
          That’s a great subject! After seven years of blogging, I’ve never posted about my work space. I need to write about it too. It’s funny how I have a fabulous space but always start in the kitchen so I can spend time with my husband before he leaves for work. LOL!

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    1. Yes! Manoush didn’t mention it, but there’s a symmetry in biking, swimming, and walking that uses the left and right side of the brain and body. I always thought my ideas flowed because of that. Now I want to take a bike ride! I better head out soon. It’s supposed to be in the 90’s!
      Thanks so much for the blog love, Carol!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This is valuable info Susie!! I need to remind myself. I panic when I think I may be bored. I do get many of my ideas when I walk my dog now that I think of it. Agatha Christie said she got her best ideas while doing the dishes. (good thing she didn’t have a dishwasher, we wouldn’t have all those marvellous books!)

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    1. Wow! I didn’t know that about Agatha Christie. Yes! I think it’s important to carve out space for being bored. I’m cleaning my house a lot more often now. Lol!
      Thanks so much, Darlene and for the blog love today!

      Like

  18. even if i don´t think that being bored is positive for our creativity, I have to agree with you when you say that we have more ideas (at least me, personally) when I do banal things, like taking a shower, cleaning home, ramblong around… in fact, i feel that my brain is much more active when i´m doing things that are not directly connected to creativity 🙂 thanks for sharing your ideas 🙂 PedroL

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