We like to criticize the mind-numbingness of social media, but recently two different posts sent me into a deep dive about boredom. First, I glimpsed this article scrolling through my Twitter feed. While promoting his new book, Questlove told NPR’s Audie Cornish, “Dare I hesitate to say that creativity might be in jeopardy because one of the key components of being creative is boredom and silence and isolation.”
Second, via Instagram, Southern Living magazine shared a video in support of a Mother’s Day article. Interior designer Lauren Liess, says, “My grandmother told me ‘Don’t ever say you’re bored, there’s too much in this world. Even if you can’t go anywhere you have your brain.’” (The pertinent clip is at 00:50 in this video.)
While Liess’s grandmother seemed to be criticizing the act of being bored, I think both Questlove and the elder Mrs. Liess are pointing to the same idea: Your mind can go to great places from a starting point of boredom. More to Questlove’s point, in today’s world when constant entertainment is at our fingertips, we need to consciously cultivate space to be bored, to allow the mind to wander.
I definitely do not allow myself to be bored. I don’t mean I am constantly looking for good work to do and new connections to make. I mean I will aimlessy scroll Twitter, Facebook and Instagram absorbing as much media as possible, but not allowing any of it to stick. I guess the word boredom did stick. Maybe my subconscious is sending me a distress signal. Because I know in most unexpected moments, creativity has struck. Some of my best writing ideas come at moments when my mind was lingering in a state of un-occupied-ness.
Questlove says, in the NPR piece, the house band format of The Tonight Show brought a new perspective to The Roots after touring for 17 years: “Once we got to The Tonight Show and the eight of us are in this really small room facing each other ... it was one of the hardest things ever to make music. But after a month, it's probably the best thing that ever happened to us. And we're better musicians and creators now than we've ever been — to the point where I discount the first 17 years of our career. I'm like, 'I cheated you guys. I'm so much better now as a musician.'”
So this week, we are encouraging you to take some time to just be bored. You never know what may happen!