The Gift Of Boredom | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

The Gift Of Boredom

boredom

What?  How can boredom be a gift?  Isn’t boredom what we read blogs and mess around on social media to avoid?

Let’s think for a moment about the situations where boredom arises.  Do we usually get bored when we’re doing something empty and meaningless?  In my experience, the surprising answer is no.

Look at your own experience — do you get bored reading blogs?  Watching the news?  Playing Minesweeper?  I suspect you’d say no – after all, we normally do those things to “take a break” and escape boredom.

In fact, it seems, we tend to get bored when we’re doing something that feels creative and meaningful.  For example, I’ve heard people say they get bored when they’re writing their book, planning an exciting new business, finishing up that winning proposal for a client, and so on.

Boredom And Tenderness

Why does this happen?  I suspect it’s because doing something creative and meaningful requires us to draw on parts of ourselves we aren’t fully comfortable with.

If you’re writing a novel, for instance, you’ll almost inevitably need to base your characters and situations on your own experiences.  Recalling some of those memories will feel painful and vulnerable.  And yet, if you didn’t access those experiences, the novel wouldn’t have the emotional depth you’re hoping for.

So, as you’re writing, it makes sense that you’ll meet some resistance.  This often comes up as discomfort in the body.  Maybe your shoulders will tense up, or you’ll feel a weight in your stomach.  It’s tempting, when faced with sensations like these, to decide “this is boring” and go instant message with friends.

In other words:  boredom, I think, is the resistance we meet when we access tender parts of ourselves.  I think psychologist Bruno Bettelheim put it well:  “boredom is a sign of feelings too hard and too deep to bring to the surface.”

Boredom Means You’re Close To The Gold

Why do I think boredom is a gift?  Because that resistance, in a sense, is a sign that we’re on the right track.  It’s a sign that we’re delving into vulnerable areas — and that vulnerability is the creative fuel that lets us do our best work.

You might think of yourself as a prospector using a metal detector to find gold.  Boredom is like the buzzing sound you hear when you’re close to the precious metal you’re looking for.

I think you’ll see this for yourself if you practice simply letting the boredom be, without running from it, and persisting with your project.  Don’t push the feeling away—just keep breathing, relax your body, and hold your attention on what you’re doing.

When you become able to create, even in the face of boredom, you may access a dimension of inspiration and insight you didn’t know existed.

14 thoughts on
The Gift Of Boredom

  1. Walter

    Boredom, I did not understand it’s nature until you have finely stated it here. You are right, I’m not comfortable with some of the things I do and so I experience this feeling. Even though, I try to counter my boredom by being indifference. For example, if I’m writing an eBook, despite the resistance of my mind to such activity, I engage myself to make action. And you know what? It worked. :-)

  2. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Evan — I think that’s a good way to put it — that, even if we don’t fully understand what’s happening when we’re feeling that sensation we call boredom, we can be fairly certain there’s value to be had in the experience.

  3. Davina

    Hi Chris.
    As I was reading this I began to realize that I haven’t felt bored in a very, very long time. I remember it well, though. My sisters and I used to get very bored on our summer holidays and drove our mom nuts looking for things to entertain us with. That quote you shared by Bruno Bettelheim is fascinating — I’d never looked at boredom from this perspective before. I’m intrigued.

  4. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Davina — it sounds like you’re engaged enough in what you’re doing right now that work seems to flow more than stop and start — that sounds inspiring to me, and I know a lot of people are looking to be in that space.

  5. Mark

    Chris,
    That was an interesting take on being bored. Awareness is key, thanks for helping us understand that boredom can be a positive thing as long as we are aware.

  6. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Mark — that’s a great way to put it, I think — that just being conscious of what’s really going on when we’re bored can open up whole new vistas of motivation and self-understanding.

  7. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Patty — I like that way to phrase it — that we can learn to see boredom as an invitation for self-exploration as opposed to, as we usually see it, something “bad” we need to get rid of.

  8. Stacey Shipman

    First of all, i love minesweeper! Second, I agree boredom is resistance – fear. we use it as an excuse to not complete something meaningful. Much like the notion of “not having enough time”. we run from what we are afraid of when, as you say that is the gold. If people could sit with it instead of run from it, then maybe the world would be a more creative, peaceful and fun place!

  9. Jannie Funster

    Chris!! can you believe I actually broke the cycle of Internet both yesterday and day before for TWO WHOLE hour stretches!!

    She, who felt a little bored but accepted each moment for how it was unfolding. Well, almost all moments. But I was amazed at me!

    And believe me, your Inner Productivity book came to mind a lot, especially in the first day with. Talk about “fleeing the hunger” for my Net! But I breathed through it. The second day was the easiest!

    I could get used to all this self-understanding. And productivity!! So happy with my song focus the past 4 days. :)

    xo

  10. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Jannie — I’m really glad to hear just being with boredom is working for you. And isn’t that odd, that boredom would come up just as you were writing the latest magnum opus! I think that’s a testament to how the common understanding of boredom is a little off — we seem to get bored when we’re doing something we care deeply about, rather than Minesweeping.

  11. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Stacey — yes, that’s an interesting feature of boredom, isn’t it — that it seems to come up when we’re doing something really important to us. I’ve found it coming up as I’ve been planning my first live workshop (not a Q&A about the book, but a full-day intensive) — breathing into the solar plexus has really helped to release some of that intensity.

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