This morning, I channeled my inner Trent Reznor by singing the chorus from the Nine Inch Nail’s song that currently defines my life:
Every day is exactly the same
There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same
This past weekend, I realized the problem wasn’t just the monotony brought on by COVID, it was monotony’s sidekick: boredom.
Exploring boredom might feel a bit trivial when millions of people are out of work, fearing eviction, risking their lives in essential jobs, or protesting inequality, all the while thousands of people die daily from COVID-19. But even within these precarious, stressful, and frightening situations, we can experience boredom.
And boredom is uncomfortable.
For centuries, we’ve been conditioned to avoid it.
Has this ever happened to you?
“Hey ma, I’m bored.”
“You’re bored? Well, let me see …. you could clean your room, shave the dog, pick lint out of the carpet….”
“No.” You slink into the backyard, still bored, and now feeling pretty terrible about it.
Ever hear this? “Idleness is the devil’s playground.”
Or, what about the praise someone gets for saying yes to every single project? “She’s such a great multitasker,” they gush.
We’ve been programmed to see boredom as bad, and as a result, we see bored people as bad. How can we allow ourselves a little boredom when it causes so much disdain?
The pandemic has put us in touch with our boredom. In response, many of us are binge-watching, baking, gardening, spending way to much time on social media, registering for virtual gallery tours, and signing up for every MOOC, webinar, and class we can to fill the time.
There’s nothing wrong with these activities.
But boredom is the playground of creativity and ingenuity. Bored kids create imaginary kingdoms. Bored adults invent new ways of seeing the world.
Boredom can revamp your writing life.
So, how do you lean into your boredom?
- Notice when you’re bored. What are you doing (or not doing)? What does boredom feel like in your body?
- Write down the thoughts and feelings you have about boredom. Are they particular to this situation, or are you chastising yourself for having any dull moments?
- Affirm the power of boredom in your creative life. Say something like, “I’m so grateful to be bored,” or “I can’t wait to see what great ideas I’m about to have,” or “Thank you for giving me enough time and idleness to create something new.”
- Resist the urge to numb your way out of boredom through technology or busyness. Instead, stare at the wall, or look at your surroundings. If this feels impossible, set a timer for five minutes so the task doesn’t feel so open-ended. Each time you’re bored, up the time until you reach 15 minutes. If fifteen feels easy, strive for an hour.
- Journal about what you thought about or did while you were bored and how it benefited you.
Not sure you can handle it?
Take your boredom to the shower. Yes, you heard me right. Stand under some warm water, and stare into space. Be the jerky housemate who runs out the hot water. As soon as you towel off, write down what happened and what you learned from this experience.
So, enjoy your boredom. While you’re at it, tell me about a time when something amazing happened in the midst of your boredom. I’d love to know what you’ve been up to.