The creative burst of boredom

By Michelle Zirkle


Boredom births the most amazing creative ideas. Kids know this. Adults know this. Yet, we’ve all sought entertainment outside of ourselves to fulfill our inner need to form something out of nothing—to paint a cool picture or write an edgy new novel—to form a collectible from junk or a unique business from scratch. These outside distractions seldom satiate the inner desire to create, but boredom can satisfy this inner need and free our highest potential—when we know how to reign it in.

Children who are accustomed to constant stimulation from toys and electronic devices will often become “bored” with them. I can remember sauntering through the kitchen as a nine-year-old and complaining to mom that I was “bored.” Her response was something like, “You can always go play in the street.” I guess she figured that way I could occupy myself by dodging the few oncoming cars that would trickle up our back street.

Adults too, dishonor this innate funnel for creativity by either zoning out in front of a television screen or immersing themselves in one activity after another, numbing the feeling of listlessness that boredom brings.

Boredom isn’t an external force that presses us into a corner and forces us to endure life rather than find the joy in living. It isn’t a lack of activities to attend or a shortage of chores to do. Boredom is a state of mind. It’s a deficit of desire to participate in life. It’s an apathy in engaging our imagination and joining forces with the world around us that would bring to life that which we find stimulating to our hearts.

Boredom exists only in the mind, so capturing it and the power it holds is as simple as thinking differently when we feel the ennui set in. Recognizing boredom as an opportunity to expand our sensational minds is as simple as pretending you have nothing to do. That’s right. Absolutely no grocery lists, no emails to return, no appointments to rush to, just breathing—and that happens, thank God, as spontaneously as the wind changes course.

In the recesses inside our soul we crave space where our dreams can come alive—where we have no name or title or presentation of appearance to maintain. We crave creativity like a bear craves honey upon emerging from the cave at the first light of spring.

When we recognize boredom, and allow it to function the way it was designed, we forget the image of the person we have told ourselves we are and we allow ourselves to just be—to feel the aliveness behind the blood and the bones—and through this expansiveness bursts creativity.

In order for boredom to enhance your life, let yourself experience it for a few moments and ask yourself what you wish to create that would bring you or someone else a smile. Then notice the desire to create stirring inside. Megan Murphy did this and brought smiles to strangers one rock at a time. She began writing messages on rocks and placing them in public areas around her hometown for others to find. Soon, the encouraging movement, Kindness Rocks, spread world-wide. See, creativity supersedes the logical and makes room for the impossible.

So, don’t go play in traffic, but do go play—whatever that means to you. Go build or draw or dance in your own playground. Then go skipping through the yard, singing, “I’m bored,” with a smile on your face that matches the one on your heart. (Caution: Your neighbors may give you strange looks after this. Good news is you won’t care).


By Michelle Zirkle


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