On Boredom and Creativity

By Aadidev

“Boredom: The desire for desires.”
– Leo Tolstoy

Growing up, the ritual of afternoon naps never appealed to me. The smouldering Indian summers meant that after-school siestas were mandatory to avoid the temerarious disposition of the unforgiving sun. The sacredness of the afternoon slumber was evident from the unsettling emptiness of popular streets, while the pin-drop silence reverberating within each household hypnotised everyone to a deep state of relaxation. Although I was obedient to follow the ritual of napping, occasionally, I would get a chance to sneak out and sit on the cold marble window-seat in our drawing-room, overlooking the unrealistically motionless and sunlight-drenched street. This is where I discovered boredom in its rawest form, propelling me to venture out to an introspective process of creativity. During all this, I uncovered my latent abilities to draw, invent games and to write.

Everyone knows how boredom feels like, however, it is very challenging to find a sound definition of this emotion. From the ancient philosophers to the present-day thinkers, the issue of boredom has been addressed in different ways. Seneca stated that boredom was a type of nausea, while a recent study suggests that boredom is a result of an objective lack of neurological excitement and a combination of the states of dissatisfaction, frustration and disinterest. It might take a minute to completely grasp the gist of the definition, however, we all go through this state whenever we are waiting for our cappuccino in a long queue, reading a spiritless chapter or listening to a three-hour-long lecture. However, it should be noted that although boredom can be frustrating (and a bunch of other things), it is not without its benefits.

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Psychologists say that boredom is an essential human emotion. When you are bored, you kindle a network in your brain known as the “default mode”. In their article, ‘Does being bored make us more creative?’, researchers Mann and Cadman state that there is a direct relationship between boredom and creativity. They conducted an experiment in which a group of people were asked to do the most boring task – to

read a phone book. The group then came up with the most creative uses for plastic cups displaying a higher level of creativity. Mann and Cadman found that the boredom induced by passive activities, such as reading dull reports or phone books, increases the chances of “daydreaming” which further induces a state favourable for creativity. Several years ago, a similar experience of boredom as a catalyst for creativity was expressed in the writings of the world-renowned philosopher, Bertrand Russell. Russell spent several months in prison and stated, “a generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow process of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers as though they were cut flowers in a vase”.

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Boredom is also beneficial to make one more goal-oriented and productive as bored people are more likely to think about the future during their daydreaming. It is also suggested that boredom encourages the pursuit of a new purpose when the previous goal is found not to provide the necessary satisfaction and interest. For example, when you find scrolling through your Instagram Feed disinteresting, you push yourself to another activity (or in some cases, a different social media platform). This suffocating feeling of apathy forces us to find some sort of meaning in the work we do, which not only provides us with the encouragement to move to bigger goals but also, enables us to become better individuals.

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Increasingly, we are participating in an exhaustive race to achieve more thrills from our daily work, leaving no time to get bored. The invention of the Internet has given everyone a platform to stay engaged and avoid boredom. However, if we would like to be more creative in finding solutions to our problems at school, work or home, we must devote some time to attempt a few passive and dull activities. You never know, you might come up with some revolutionary poems or research ideas while sitting on a cold marble window-seat while staring at a lifeless street.

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Email me at aadi.fijitimes@gmail.com