Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Value of Boredom

A recent scientific study agrees with Neil Gaiman that boredom stimulates creativity:

Boredom, the Ultimate Creativity Hack

As Gaiman puts it, "boredom is the place you create from in self-defense." Instead of filling every minute with "productive" activity, such as scanning through phone messages while waiting in lines, we should embrace waiting times as a chance to "do nothing." The brain isn't literally doing nothing, though; those "empty" snippets of time can foster daydreaming, which leads to enhanced creativity.

Reminds me of those summer vacation days (in the childhood of our generation) when a mother would shove kids outside and order them to find something to do (with the spoken or unspoken corollary, "or I'll find something for you to do"). We usually came up with an activity to engage our imaginations, even if it was only playing school with our oldest sister as the teacher passing on what she'd learned in the previous term.

When we set aside electronic distractions and let our thoughts wander during down time, the mind "can take you into new and interesting territory." Okay, I can accept that premise. This article, though, focuses on high-tech means of filling every minute with activity. What about people like me, who carry books (in my case, usually "tree" books) everywhere? I don't read in store lines, of course, except maybe the magazine I've put in my cart to buy, but I'm always reading books in waiting rooms, etc. Sitting there doing "nothing" would lead to more impatience and anxiety than productive daydreaming. I wouldn't go anywhere without a book on hand, including in cars while other people are driving. I'm sure many if not most avid readers follow the same practice. How does that habit fit in with the recommendations of this article?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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