Getting Back to Being Bored

Parenting experts say that letting your child be bored challenges their young brains to be creative. It is in difficult silence that they discover exactly who they are, what they want, and what they love. Kids need to explore, discover, and use their brains to experience the adventure inside themselves. 

In my blazing hot summer of planning, creating, and getting back to writing I’ve discovered something marvelous — Grownups need boredom too.

Actually, grownups need a lot of things that we prescribe our children. Over the course of our longer and longer lives we change and grow, discover and rediscover ourselves almost as much as we did as kids. Even though we bask in the glory of having reached thirty, forty, sixty, eighty, and reflect on how much we’ve changed, in the same breath we disparage the prospect of ever changing again. 

I was a child back then, we say over and over of every possible age, But now I am grown. Now, I have arrived. 

With all this growth, perhaps we need to take our own parenting advice. We should encourage ourselves to play. Be curious. Explore. But most of all — Be Bored.

Sometimes, for grownups, we call this mediation. Free your mind, experts advocate, focus on your breath. But meditation can feel abstract and out of reach for those who have never tried it. In Judaism they call their day of boredom Shabbat, in Christianity, the Sabbath. For some people it’s called backpacking, for others it’s a morning sipping tea alone on the porch.

There is a constant influx of information in our lives. With e-mails on our phone, radio in our cars, podcasts or jams while we’re working out, books or movies in our down time, we rarely spend a moment taking in absolutely nothing. And how could we? We’re busy! Children and partners and pets demand us, chores distract us, the chicken needs precise ingredients and monitored cooking. But doing nothing is exactly the sort of thing we’ve been missing.

Boredom scares us. It’s that kingdom trapped in our perpetual inner selves, the parts we hate, the stress, the fears you would never verbalize or even dare to think. What if the stress seeps in? What if dissatisfaction plagues our thoughts? We imagine the paralyzing disaster of what we would dare to think if we only had a moment. 

Creativity lives in the folds of boredom. In long summer drives through the nothing of the country, in a steamy shower staring at the dripping white tiles, in patient hours waiting for something to begin. It is freedom at its best and its worst, it is torture, and luxury, and peace and ingenuity.

I am finding as wedding planning is dying down and I’m settling back into the day to day writing life, I have to remind myself to be bored again. If I remove stimulation and practice being with just myself, inspiration always comes.

Occasionally we instigate a tech-free day at our house. No tv or computers, no phones or internet, no online recipes or googling the difference between it’s and its. Tech free day is a day where we only have paper and each other, a day where everything turns off, so our brains can turn back on. It’s not often we can partake in such a luxury, but when we do, creative juices flow, long talks are inspired, unique and inventive dishes are made. 

Boredom is refreshing. It is youth, and elongated time, and experience. It is the seed of passion, and the place where we grow. It is a practice and a necessity. And it’s time we all had a little taste.

Force yourself to be bored. I implore you. You’ll never know what might be buried inside until you dare, for a moment, to look.


C. L. Brenton