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How boredom can spark creativity

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20200522-how-boredom-can-spark-creativity

bbc.com

How boredom can spark creativity
While mind-numbing tedium is never the goal, it can often be the source of great art, writes Clare Thorp.

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Boredom sparks creativity

Boredom sparks creativity

Boredom is one of the most important factors in creativity. Boredom is a productive state as long as you don't let it get to you.

Agatha Christie said there is nothing like boredom to make you write. Neil Gaiman advises aspiring writers to let themselves get so bored that the mind has nothing better to do than tell itself a story.

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Our mind when we're bored

When we're bored, two key things are happening in our minds: One is a 'desire bind' where someone wants to do something but not anything that's on offer. The other is when your mind is itching to be engaged.

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Don't fill the void

Our first instinct when we experience some boredom is to fill it with Netflix lists, Instagram feeds, and TikTok videos. Riding out this boredom is vital though.

Boredom is not in itself creative. It's what it leads to that is significant. In the gap of boredom, you're motivated to look for something else, and there's a real chance you'll discover something new.

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Allowing our minds to wander

Boredom triggers daydreaming, and that leads to creativity. In essence, boredom is not the state that is really good for the creative process. It's doing something familiar with a kind of diffused focus that allows your mind to wander.

  • Choreographer George Balanchine said he did his best work while ironing in the morning.
  • Writer Doris Lessing often took breaks from work to tidy the house or wash dishes. This aimlessness was vital to help her create her ideas.
  • Margaret Atwood found this state from birdwatching.
  • Many creatives also cite walking as being vital to their process.

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Focus And The Brain

When we’re consciously doing things we’re using the “executive attention network, ” the parts of the brain that control and inhibit our attention. The attention network makes it possible for us to relate directly to the world presently around us.

By contrast, when our minds wander, we activate the brain’s “default mode network, ” which is the brain “at rest”; not focused on an external, goal-oriented task. In this mode, we still tap about 95% of the energy we use when our brains are engaged in focused thinking. 

Types Of Daydreaming

  • Poor attention control: when people with poor attention control drift into daydreaming. These people are anxious, easily distracted, and have difficulty concentrating, even on their daydreams.
  • Guilty-dysphoric: when our thoughts drift to unproductive and negative places. We berate ourselves for perceived mistakes or flaws and feel emotions like guilt, anxiety, and anger.
  • Positive-constructive: when our thoughts veer toward the imaginative; it reflects our drive to explore ideas and feelings, plan, and problem-solve. 

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Boredom is not that simple to explain

Boredom is not that simple to explain

We may tend to think of boredom as a response to monotonous activities. But boredom isn't this clearcut.

Research reveals that there's a significant variation in how much bo...

Boredom and modern society

Boredom is sometimes described as the plague of modern society.

  • Back in 2016, a French worker sued his former employer for "bore-out." He won.
  • Many people, especially those born between mid -1990s and late 2010s, scrolls aimlessly through apps and find nothing of interest.
  • People are even diagnosing their pets with boredom.

The struggle to define boredom

Psychologists differ in their definition of boredom.

  • In the 1960s and 1970s, boredom was defined as the feeling generated by a repetitive task. Researchers found that boredom increased alertness to the things happening around you (distractions).
  • From 1986, the opposite was found. A study found that boredom caused less concentration.

The creation of an alter ego

Creating a fictional persona is a strategy that involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to think rationally about a situation. It allows us to rein in feelings like anxi...

Changing perspective and emotion regulation

Research shows that small shifts in perspective can help people in controlling their emotions.

In an experiment, when people viewed themselves as "distanced" from a situation, they were less anxious than the group that viewed themselves as in the middle of the situation.

Thinking in the third person

Self-distancing enables people to focus on the bigger picture rather than concentrating on immediate feelings. It improves the sense of emotional regulation, self-control, and general poise.

In a study, participants were asked to practice self-distancing when faced with various kinds of food - for example, fruit instead of candy. When participants asked, "What does David want?" instead of "What do I want?" they were more likely to choose the healthier option.