Last week I read an interview that Mikael Wood from the L.A. Times did with popular singer/songwriter James Taylor. As a long time fan of Taylor’s, I enjoyed the discussion about his latest album, Before This World, and glimpses into his private life and family. Near the end of the interview the topic turned to today’s youth and, specifically, to James’ 14-year-old twin sons. In the last couple sentences of the interview James said:

“I see them on a small screen watching a big screen, and they’re also doing homework, and meanwhile texts are coming in and advertisements are happening… I don’t think I’ve ever seen my kids be bored. And boredom was great. Who knew where it might lead?”

That really struck me. Today it seems that boredom is almost treated as an evil thing—something to be avoided at all costs. A lot of moms and dads think if their child appears to be bored, that somehow that makes them bad parents. And so, we keep them “engaged.” Endless summer “camps,” smart phones and computers for 5-year-olds so they don’t get left behind the digital wave, the glow of Disney movies playing in SUVs as they drive down the highway. Who has time to be bored anymore?

Boredom Was Great
Culture was different back in the 1960s and early 70s when I was growing up. During summer vacation my mother would often say to me, “Go outside and play. I don’t want to see you until dusk.” She wasn’t being cruel or anything. She just wanted me to find something to do to entertain myself. What often started with throwing a tennis ball against the garage or riding my bike down the street would turn into games of kickball, football or building forts out of old appliance boxes with the neighborhood kids. Rainy days served as launching pads for hours of model building, reading or drawing crayon murals on rolls of newsprint. Boredom was the kindling for creativity and fun.

Boredom and the Creative Life
In the busyness of our everyday adult lives, I bet most of us can’t even remember the last time we were bored. With deadlines to meet, emails to write and meetings to attend, who has time to be bored?

That’s a problem.

The creative life requires a balance of stimulation and quiet in order to flourish. And by quiet, I mean time without screens, telephones ringing or loud music playing. Times of intentional disconnectedness—mental and emotional space that allows new ideas to bubble up to the surface. Without that kind of “boredom,” we risk the slide into burnout.

Who Knows Where It Might Lead?
Today, make a personal resolution to be bored. Pretend that for one day (or even just an hour!) this weekend, you’re not allowed to turn on your phone, computer or TV. Find a quiet place to just stare out into space. Lay down in the grass and watch the clouds float by. Buy a box of Crayolas and a roll of newsprint and see what transpires. beRENEWED!

Do you have a way of building boredom into your creative life? Leave a comment and let us know.

Other good reads about boredom:
The Cat In The Hat
Fast Company

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