When do the best ideas strike?
Do the most original ideas come to you when you’re working around the clock, not eating properly and struggling to sleep or when you are bored… bored stiff? Why do the best ideas hit you while you’re in the shower? I have a theory (and it’s probably going to ruffle some feathers): Being bored is fantastic for creativity. Have you ever played with a young child and you suddenly run out of ways to keep them stimulated? What’s next? More often than not your creativity kicks in and you’re able to pull together a grand adventure with some toilet paper rolls, a handful of pipe cleaners and elastic bands. What about when you’re sitting around with friends on the deck and the small talk subsides? What comes next is usually some kind of fun game about stories or telling jokes that create the more powerful memories years down the line.
Get bored more often.
I’m often asked if I ever take a break. What most people fail to realize is that I spend a lot of my time bored. Not de-motivated. Not from a lack of something to do. Not because nothing gets me excited, but because I know that it is in those moments of boredom that some of the clearest and most lucid ideas come creatively crashing in on me. Spending my time scouring Blogs, Twitter feeds and RSS readers does not generate the best ideas for a concept for a client, Blog post, magazine article or book chapter. Those ideas usually strike when nothing else is happening. When it’s quiet. When everything isn’t flowing like a river of news in a real-time Web… but when I’m bored.
Boring isn’t bad.
Sadly, most people believe that being bored is bad and dangerous. It’s only that way if you’re constantly in a slump (or a high school student without summer plans). Think about being bored in a much more pragmatic and proactive way: what would it take for you to bring yourself (and your mind) to a place where you have nothing to do or think about? Where there are no distractions (TV, Web, whatever) and to a place where you can just breathe, look around and have absolutely nothing to do?
You can be bored right now.
Close your computer. Shut down your mobile device. Turn off the television. Put on your shoes and walk over to a park. Don’t sit near anybody. Sit by yourself. Don’t bring anything with you. Nothing (not even a notebook). Try sitting there… and sitting still for an hour. You will be bored. You will spend the first 30 minutes recounting your past few days and all of the things you have to do at home and work. You’ll then start thinking about all of the others things you would like to do (read a book, take your nephew out to a movie, etc…). You will… at some point… run out of things to think and worry about. You’ll have nothing to do. You’ll just sit there. Good. Sit there. Keep sitting. Sit there until you’re no longer thinking about all of that stuff (including the part where you’ll be thinking about why you’re even sitting there in the first place)… sit there until you have nothing else to do. You will get bored. Once you’re beyond bored, you’ll see something will happen. Ideas will flow. You will get creative because you have nothing else to do. In that boredom you will find and create much more memorable times.
When people ask you, "aren’t you bored?" Just smile and wish you were bored more often.