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Whether it is poetry or prose, I experienced the same familiar pattern: once it’s just me and the blank screen/page, a wave of boredom rises up to meet me. I feel the urge to go somewhere – anywhere – to get away. And I let the wave wash over me. I accept I am bored, that boredom is part of the process – and I trust that if I sit here long enough, it will subside, and reveal a flicker of curiosity. That flicker is like the tiny flame a match sparks in kindling – easily snuffed out, but if you are patient, it will start to grow and burn brightly. Curiosity becomes interest, becomes fascination… and soon I’m lost in my writing, the words are flowing and I wouldn’t be anywhere or doing anything else in the whole world.

From Why Boredom is Good for Your Creativity

At The 99 Percent, Mark McGuinness discusses how being bored can actually help to fuel creativity. With all of the distractions we have available, it’s easy to always keep our minds busy, never letting our thoughts wander freely. For McGuinness, minimizing distractions by using apps, like Freedom, to force him offline or heading to the library with pen and paper in hand is the best way for him to disconnect and get his creative juices flowing. In the article, he also includes six tips on how to use this creative boredom to your advantage.

I’m a big fan of “unplugging” and find that one full day offline, without checking my email or phone, does a lot for my creativity. It helps me focus on reading or lets me just sit, think, and write – the old fashioned way. (Daryl has also suggested trying the pen and paper approach from time to time.) If I don’t, I find that my mind is too cluttered or easily distracted to actually write for a significant amount of time. Though I’ve written about using social media and online “distractions”Β to your advantage, quiet time is also a great way to help process and synthesize all of the information we have so easily accessible online.

What do you think: Do you write your blog posts in a quiet setting, or amongst the hubbub of social networks and chats? Do you turn off the internet or use any other tools to help reduce distractions? Is “boredom” your writing fuel or do you write when excited/busy/etc?

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  1. In my experience, it tends to be a very chaotic thing. I can only write a post when an idea hits me. I guess this means that if I am sitting at work, I need to duck away for 10 min to get the basics down and refine them later.

    Great post, thanks!

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  2. A very interesting post – though I’m amazed anyone would write if they had to wrestle through boredom first. You make it sound like an OK wrestle mind you, with popcorn, betting and crowds… Nicola http://homemadekids.wordpress.com

    PS Erica V – I’m taking a guess you don’t have young children, the moment you do there’s “no time to be bored”, even in front of a just about to be born blog post.

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  3. I am currently reading Bertrand Russell’s ‘The Conquest Of Happiness’, written in the 1930s.

    In it he says that the feeling of being entitled to always be entertained or distracted rather than accepting boredom as part of the mix of life makes people unhappy.

    My take is that with the rise of the information culture, the genie is out of the bottle, so we may as well be entertained during the long haul – happy or not.

    And maybe cracking the whip for productivity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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  4. I think going to paper and pen may be too much (why not quill and inkwell), but there’s a point in shifting from the net, that’s usually full of superficial thoughts and texts (coz that’s the kind of text we most read in front of a screen), and get into ourselves to get something real, something from us. Funny thing that I’m writing this about deepness while listening to in “Disco Inferno” by The Trampps, heh.

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  5. I call it ADD, but I guess it really is “distractions”. I unplugged once for 24hours straight. I thought I was gonna die, but I enjoyed it once past the anxiety. I tend to have ideas and work better with more things going on. I think of it like an oiled wheel constantly in motion. Works better. πŸ™‚ Good for you working through the boredom.

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    1. Reading the comments, I’m surprised at how many people work well while online! I love the way you put it: “I think of it like an oiled wheel constantly in motion” πŸ™‚

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  6. Thank you for this. It is wonderful, filled with good stuff. Its amazing what little mini-breaks can do, a short walk, a stroll to see how the garden is doing, time with a friend, time doing the mundane but necessary i.e. the laundry. The mind goes to a different place I think and refuels or inspiration is captured here. Again, thank you.

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  7. I think emptiness is a better word than boredom to describe the lack of inspiration at times. in any case, keep plugging/typing away!

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  8. Finally, a reason not to feel guilty about being bored when trying to write, thank you. This is actually really helpful. I tend to be more of a procrastinator than anything else though, but recently, during a bout of extreme boredom I had this crazy thought to write a cheese sci-fi novel about a man so bored he attempts to destroy the fabric of time, and I would call it “Killing Time.” What can I say…..I’m a sucker for a bad pun.

    Recently I actually decided to purse this endeavor, in my moments of boredom….
    http://writeashittynovel.wordpress.com/

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      1. Thanks πŸ™‚ It’s not much to look at right now, but it’s a nice distraction.

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  9. Boredom for me is the twitchy state of having too many options and not feeling like doing any of them. The creative vacuum is when I go out and sit in the garden and stare at the mountains with the birds flitting about and the donkey braying across the valley and the cats playing Tigger with the chickens, and my mind latches on to a problem or a ‘where-now’ moment and starts frothing with ideas. I have to go and fetch paper and pen then and go back outside and scribble down the ideas before the bubble pop.

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  10. I’m never bored, and I do mean NEVER. There’s far too much to think about, write about, create, tend to, care for, nurture, see, and so on, to be bored. In fact, I’m submitting a request for a permanent extension of hours in each day to go from 24 to 48, without repercussions. πŸ˜›

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  11. I rarely get bored but emptiness is a crucial part of the creative process for me. I have to have some empty space very day, so yeah, that means a regular practice of unplugging and taking solitude, creating the void.

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  12. I have to have quiet when I’m writing. I would love to be able to go to a coffee shop and sit among other writers and put my thoughts on paper, or on the computer screen. But alas, I can’t concentrate. Obviously I’m not a multi-tasker.
    I do take a day off a week to get away from my computer and it’s like withdrawal from drugs. The only time I don’t miss it is if my day off is spent on the back of our motorcycle riding through the mountain passes.

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  13. As an artist, I understand the tyranny of that blank screen. It’s like me facing a white piece of paper. Putting that first mark on it is scary because it feel like it sets the direction for the entire work, even though it is only paper and paint! Down time (i.e. boredom) is useful. I find that some of my more creative ideas come while doing something monotonous like driving long distance, vacuuming, or a repetitive motion task (hand sewing). The problem I have with creativity comes after working for about 45 min. I am overwhelmed by the feeling of “this is stupid and not turning out the way I want,” even if it’s going well. I am just too close to see it. A short break usually restores perspective.

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    1. That remembers me the huge amount of ideas that come into my mind in the midst of a shower. Interesting and important ideas that disappear from my mind as soon as I get out of the bathroom like the water through the wastepipe. And they come back when I take the next shower!

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      1. To allvoxman – the times when our minds are free from demands can be quite valuable, and when you’re showering, you can daydream! Ideas come at the oddest time. I now RUN to the nearest paper and pen when an idea comes to me, or if I’m here, throw a draft title in, just to remind myself and write later. I agree with Ruth – you need something to write on while you’re in there!

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      1. also, there are tablets for writing in , for scientists who must be outdoors, such as botanists, when it rains. These do not dissolve when wet and you can write on them in the shower. πŸ™‚

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  14. My ideal setting is quiet, relaxing in my reading chair with pen and paper, and not to forget my hot cup of java. I have 4 boys so the quiet and relaxing part I don’t get so much if I want to write during their waking hours. Admittedly, they can be quite the catalyst for some things I write, and they love to critique my work. If I do get stuck I yell through the house to ask for a random word. Of course I get 4 words and that usually breaks the monotony.

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  15. Very good title ‘Creatively Bored’. I am learning , I cant write more then 3/4 lines at a stretch. I write or rather try to wright Haiku,you can get ideas from anywhere, tv,photographs,music and once a thought strikes nothing can distract me. Enjoyed your post.

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  16. Nice post to be creative. I write on paper first and then when I write in my blog, change some things to have the story, but if our mind is blank… we do with these blocks who not allowed writing? 😦

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  17. I don’t get bored. Actually I can’t remember when I last was bored, although people expect me to be ata time. My mid is always ticking over a new idea, or yesterday’s post. There’s always something. That said, I need some quiet to write. I can write without it but I’m not focussed enough to achieve a result I’m happy with.

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  18. I truly do my best writing with a pencil. There just is something about using the thumb that makes me more fully human, or something — maybe more fully alive. I think the movement of the fingers and hand are like a dance, a waltz or perhaps a ballet. However, when we type, the movement is more like the Rockettes. Not so lovely. Not the same.
    Also, when typing, the words happen too fast for us to think all the way through a thing. Writing is slower and allows the brain to grope for exact nuances.
    And, while I enjoy quiet the most, the songs of night creatures also make an enchanting background.

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  19. Wonderful quote from “Why boredom is good…” I honestly have absolutely no idea what boredom is — people talk about it so I understand the condition, but with so much to do and so much to think about, even with no external props whatsoever, why in the world do people get bored?? Beats me. It follows that I spend time thinking about what might be interesting for others to read, get an idea from real life and mold it into an story, give it time to mature, and then spill it out quickly. But I just hack at it. I do admit I keep an eye out for others who are better so to snag some techniques. Thanks for the fun post; makes us think !

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  20. I usually write my blogs late night when it is really silent and my thoughts &words can spread freely. Though I write blogs only when there is a spark . Right now I’m facing a creatively dead period of writer’s block. Hope I overcome to soon πŸ™‚

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  21. I don’t feel that I get bored creatively – unless its like one previous commenter, where I have too many options and none currently appeal at that point in time.

    Procrastination or the “getting around to it” is more of my problem but I often find when I sit down and start working on my images that need to be processed the spark alights πŸ™‚

    The biggest problem I have had the last couple of years is due to massive stress and sensory overload (our city has been devastated by two massive quakes which continue 18 months on) that I completely LOST my creative mojo. The first time I got really worried when it went on for months, but the second time I just tried to do what you suggest, and time out a bit, and eventually it came back and my blogging is all the better for it. Am enjoying it while it lasts!

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  22. I’m the complete opposite.

    I need to accelerate my mind to a point where I can be creative. Music, tv, people talking, 17 other things going on on the laptop, IM msgs on the phone, then my mind hits the zone where I can be creative.

    The point being, like with sport, to surrender conscious control of the creative process. If there’s too little going on, too much ‘attention’ gets focussed on the creative process. Which is not good.

    /notetoself: Blog on this.

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  23. I’ve been thinking this over alot lately. When I do the GO GO GO thing I never have time to allow creativity in. A friend described it as making space for the divine – and not exactly in a religious sense. In a creative sense. Having that time to just experience, think, feel….that is a powerful creative tool.

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  24. I write my blog posts by hand in a notebook, or on pieces of paper. When? As a supply teacher I sometimes get free periods and this is when I take the quiet time to think and get writing πŸ™‚

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  25. Sometimes I come to my blog with absolutely nothing to say and then, I putter around; I look at at prompts, old posts, and something eventually catches my interest; a poem, a quote, a story, a news report, anything really, and I’m off and running. Some days it flows and on other days it’s slow… πŸ™‚

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  26. Great post. I enjoyed it and it made me think.
    Too bad most of us don’t have the time or inclination to be bored. I think it is essential to orginal and independent creative thought to just do nothing and let the mind wander…I wish the practice of being bored was more realistic in this fast paced world of ours. I would LOVE to be able to slow down and dig my toes in the sand and ponder the mysteries of the universe.

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