The link between boredom and creativity

The link between boredom and creativity #gif #creativity #daydreaming
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Boredom drives creativity for no other reason than that your mind needs something to latch onto in idle times.

When you’re bored, anything goes. Ambiguity and hyperbole are the name of the game. Your mind loves stretching the imagination and failing reality.

Sometimes people are too corrupted by reality and everydayness. To perceive something that doesn’t even exist is a bicep curl for the innovative brain.

So try this: take a seat, put the phone down, and do nothing. You’ll have no choice but to think outlandish thoughts to keep yourself entertained.

Do nothing for as long as possible. From Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies #books #creativity #writingprompts
Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies

Image via Darran Anderson

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Craving light

Never bored, always on, perpetually entertained. That describes the 21st-century in a nutshell. #gif #tech

Never bored, always on, perpetually entertained. That describes the 21st-century in a nutshell.

We medicate all our boredom, stresses, and frustrations to external stimuli on a tiny screen. All an Instagram like does is produce a temporary shot of dopamine. All Facebook does is serve our voyeuristic inclinations and spike envy. Does this behavior sound healthy to you?

I'm not imploring you that you throw your phone into the ocean, at least just yet. Having the internet in our pocket is the best thing ever. Just ask David Bowie.

But the long-term consequences of feed-based culture are not only narcissism but also feigned action. One can't start an important and impactful revolution through a sedentary nor solitary lifestyle. We have to use our legs to go places, to stretch our perspective, and unplug ourselves from the tyranny of virtual attention.

If you are immune to boredom there is nothing you cannot accomplish.

David Foster Wallace

Humans crave light, albeit more artificial these days. If we could just pay attention to real life beyond the rectangular glow and stare into sunsets and bright moons instead, perhaps we'd feel even more connected to our conscious selves.

gif by ailadi

A big believer in boredom

“I’m a big believer in boredom. … All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.” Steve Jobs #gifs #quotes

“I’m a big believer in boredom. … All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.” 

Steve Jobs

Boredom adds to the mystery of life. When we sit alone with our thoughts, the world breaks open. Nature comes alive. Time slows down and insights emerge from dormancy.

The ransacking of human attention has been virtually unstoppable ever since the iPhone came out. Technology makes us hyper-attentive all the time, so much that we end up paying attention to nothing at all. Mobile screens drown out the dull, mysterious thoughts and replace them with bytes of cotton candy.

Don’t get it twisted: the mind is alive and well, especially when it has nothing to do.

art via davidmichaelchandler

A crisis in boredom

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Remember what it was like to be bored before the internet spread its wings of distraction?

The newbies won’t confess. With everything available to them at their thumbs, they’ll never know a world where people once stared at walls for nothing. Magazines at the dentist’s office will remain untouched, replaced by the rectangular glow of entertainment on handheld devices.


But the adults aren’t any better. We confuse busyness with checking email, answering texts, viewing Instagrams, or looking up stocks.

Everyone is suffering at the mercy of accelerated time, of chasing the closest dopamine hit to avoid dealing with the ennui of the present. We busy ourselves going somewhere, overlooking the serenity of what is near and remaining hooked on a ludic loop to numb the pain of idleness.

Pursuing boredom for boredom’s sake

If you can't stand boredom for boredom's sake, take on a mundane task to put your mind in a wandering state.

Doing the dishes, organizing your vinyl collection, mowing the lawn, and taking a shower are all triggers that help release you from the grip of now.

Your brain needs time to chew over all that it absorbs, which it can only do by looking backward and rummaging though experiences, memes, and fleeting thoughts to bring them back alive.

Pursing tedium rewires the unconscious mind and strengthens mental processing. It is no surprise that eureka moments occur when you suspend the sober thinking robot and let your mind play instead.

Genius strikes when you quell the monkey mind, roaming into a chore with the means to chase something.


This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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For boredom’s sake

matthew-henry-130381.jpgBoredom is the enemy, kept at bay with the smartphone.  As Clive Thomas writes, “If you have a planet’s worth of entertainment in your pocket, it’s easy to stave off ennui.”

But boredom is beneficial, and embracing it may be a key element to unlocking your potential.

“Boredom might spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation.” — Clive Thompson

Staying bored is the challenge of no challenge. But by starving yourself of screen staring, you stimulate new ways of thinking to keep yourself entertained.

People get great ideas in the shower or driving their car because they can't do anything else. The author Neil Gaiman believes that the best way to write a book is to be so bored you don’t have a choice.

So practice delaying the smartphone itch every once in a while; otherwise, you'll keep filling your mind up with crap.

Planning unscheduled time

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Guess what? Your mind still works even when it's doing nothing. The reason great ideas come to you in the shower is that your brain's bored and relaxed.

If you want to shake out even more ideas, therefore, it behooves you to disconnect more often. Instead of wasting cognitive energy at screens, just sit there with no stimulation other than a pen and pad.

Author [easyazon_link identifier=”0393356183″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Neil Gaiman[/easyazon_link] says the only inspiration you need to write a book is absolute boredom. You'll be amazed on how the ideas start to connect when you decide to do nothing, unmoored from the stickiness of technology.


Taking your foot off the gas in the pursuit of dullness takes deliberate practice. You've been trained to do a lot more with continuous partial attention, but at the cost of engaging deeply on one particular task.

Busyness often gets confused with checking email, swiping left and right, and other screen-obsessed habits that never let you get out of your own head. Once you're more mindful of how you spend your waking time, you'll start to appreciating moments of unexcitement. Magic happens in an “unexpected state.”

Boredom is a skill

Boredom is a skill. Doing nothing is the only way to avoid losing time. Because when you're turned off, you're turned on, reactivating and reconnecting memories of the past.

Reflection is at the heart of thinking. We don't know what believe until we produce our own thought. Until then, our opinion is always stolen from someone else, solidifying in the echo chambers of social media.

We often demonize inaction but in today's hyperconnected world, going offline is exactly the panacea we seek. Boredom is more fragile than the immediate pleasure of attention. Focus is the only way to protect against the cracks of distraction.

Deep work

Who would've thought that your future success rests on the ability to disconnect from the internet and do deep work. If you want to get good at anything, you'll need to practice for hours with deliberate focus. In an interview with James Altucher, professor, and author Cal Newport suggests that you need three to four hours of intense training each day, whether that be writing, playing the guitar, or shooting hoops.

Newport's book So Good They Can't Ignore You argues that skills trump passion, that the reward for putting in the work is the attention your deserve. If you can be consistent, it's shouldn't take the 10,000 hours of practice to master something.

It's hard to delay gratification in a world that teaches you to do everything now. Action is more noticeable than inaction. You go to work to spend more time answering email and slack conversations than tackling a project with long-term benefits. You're graded based on your ability to manage velocity. It's no wonder people burn out.

The web is a gift and a curse, a tool for connectedness that can often lead to drowning in a pool of dopamine. Who would've thought your success would be determined by your ability to single-task and the only way to get your mind back would be to appreciate doing nothing.

Never sitting still

rihanna work work work work

We vacuum our free time up only to replace it with busyness.

Busyness is the purposeful avoidance of doing something with long-term significance in replacement for doing something with immediate tangible results, like answering email.

No one will be thinking about inbox zero on their death bed, says Dan Ariely, Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics. “Why is email available 24/7?,” calling the email game ‘structured procrastination.'

Play the long game

We pursue meaningless stuff all day like email and social networking instead of thinking or working on long-term projects because we can't stand boredom. We'd rather be something rather than nothing, even choosing electrocution over silence. Joelle Renstrom, a writing professor at Boston University punishes students who leave their cell phones on by making them “sing a song or bust some dance moves in front of the class.”

But there are also people who are work-obsessed and take on too much. Their compulsiveness with doing is an escape from difficult emotions, caring more about their work than taking care of their kids, as one workaholic admits.

‘Try harder!' ‘Go faster!' ‘Do more!'

People schedule and accept more meetings just to keep busy. There's a misperception that the more you work you have, the busier you are, and therefore more important you are. We become slaves to the ‘always-on' Internet. Busyness relegates life to secondary status, which can take a toll on our health and relationships.

Yet, as much as technology increases busyness and productivity, it could also help save it. Apps like Headspace and Calm encourage people to use their devices to step back into the present.

https://twitter.com/bombtune/status/764864310631858176

Busyness needs a deeper purpose for it to be justified. It can't all be about enjoying the stimulation and creating unnecessary stress. Sometimes the quiet moments are exactly what we need to do better work.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Take the same path to the office every day? Do the same exercises and work the same muscles? Write on the same topic?

I personally have a tendency to do all these things, mostly because I don't have to think twice. But habit is such a rut-creating experience that atrophies curiosity and strength over time.

To allay boredom, I've been taking a new route to work each day this week. A change of scenery has made the work path more exciting. I've also stopped doing daily pushups because I injured my shoulder. Self-inflicted wounds are telltale signs to stop doing what you're doing. Instead, I do more sprints with my dog. And I've been publishing less on Tumblr, saving those pieces for an end of week recap.

Boredom is the enemy. Sameness destroys creativity. Newness stimulates the brain. The next thing I need to renew is my daily meditation. Even that's become a desultory routine.

Today’s Pattern of Patience

The Smartphone is an answer to our own impatience. Because we’re always using our phones, sitting an extra 45 minutes at a restaurant is no problem.

Yet the smartphone also raises our expectations. We expect everyone and everything to be accessible now or planned for now, not tomorrow.

Smartphone culture is the simultaneous cause of increased impatience with increased distraction. Additionally, all this stimulation decreases our ability to be bored, which is central to reflection and even creativity.

So how does our patience evolve with 24/7, “smart” technology? It doesn’t. The only way to enjoy a proper meal or have a good night’s rest, is to turn it all off.

7 articles to read this weekend

Every week I stumble across some articles that inspire my curiosity about art, culture, creativity, productivity, and social media. Below is what’s inspiring me this week.

1. Pursue Boredom And Let The Brain Wander

It Pays To Be Bored

Bored people let their minds wander towards more productive ends. They daydream. They write a song or try a new hobby. Or nine months later they add a member to their family.

Digital devices mean we’re always on, always connected, and always entertained. We have to make a deliberate effort to be bored if we want our minds to wander. Maira Kalman says it best: “Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty.”

2. Keep It Simple When It Comes To Design

Massimo Vignelli, a Modernist Graphic Designer, Dies at 83

Rather than representing the subway lines as the spaghetti tangle they are, it showed them as uniform stripes of various colors running straight up and down or across at 45-degree angles — not unlike an engineer’s schematic diagram of the movement of electricity.

Good design simplifies complexity. Things don’t need a literal translation; design recasts them to ensure they’re understood.

3. Creative Inspiration Comes From Other People

Sting at TED: How I started writing songs again

So having decided to write about other people instead of myself, a further irony is that sometimes you reveal more about yourself than you’d ever intended.

When stuck in a creative rut, tell other people’s stories. Great artists steal.

4. Nobody Reads Books Anymore

How the Novel Made the Modern World

The novel rose with modern selves because the novel, classically, relates the story of an individual attempting to create herself against existing definitions.

Books made us who we are. But now Tweets/short-form does. Will we ever get our long attention spans back?

5. Mobile Delays Time Rather Than Saving It

This is your brain on mobile

Phones have turned us into inconsiderate and tardy buttholes. I lost respect for my friend’s time and being punctual wasn’t a priority because updating them with an ETA became passive and far too easy.

Put the phone away and make the date on time. Didn’t Woody Allen, say that 80% of life is just showing up?

6. Share What You Know?

Faking Cultural Literacy

It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them.

We’re getting lazy, scanning headlines and sharing them instead of reading the whole article, or tweeting about TV shows we don’t even watch. Can we talk about something we only saw in a recap? Still thinking about this David Karp quote:

“There’s such a huge focus on social that it overshadows the actual creation of the stuff we want to share and talk about.”

7. Beats Made For Breaking

BEHIND THE DECKS ::: LTJ Bukem

I’ve often said when asked about creating music, some of the best tracks I think in the last few decades of electronic music have come from mistakes almost made at the computer, maybe something that isn’t essentially musically correct but just works.

Did Bukem make one of those creative mistakes in producing this early 2000 classic?