Artists need to stop wasting boredom on technology.
Last night, I was bored and mindlessly scrolled through Facebook. I saw a post about a public art installation. Funny enough, the installation was a sculpture that criticized our dependence on technology. As I stared at a screen, I couldn’t help but giggle. I’m sure you’ve heard countless people say that we are addicted to digital screens and that it’s a problem. I’d like to cut screens some slack here. Screens are not the problem. The problem is we are endlessly trying to cure our boredom and digital screens are a highly effective remedy.
Cure for Boredom
Boredom isn’t something new, and neither is the desire to run from it. Our current addiction to technology is just another way to end the discomfort of boredom. Just like reading books or playing sports or card games. Our brains want to be stimulated and distracted because boredom is really uncomfortable. I remember going to my mom as a kid and complaining I was bored, just like I would complain I was hungry. The feeling was unpleasant and I wanted it to end.
Boredom feels like mental hunger, and we want to consume anything we can to feel satiated, but I’m here to tell you that boredom is a superpower for creative people. With a little discipline, boredom can unlock a wealth of creativity.
Boredom is a catalyst for creativity.
If you were alone in a room with white walls, a white ceiling, a white floor, a white table, a white chair, and a phone with WiFi–what would you do? Sit there quietly with your thoughts? Maybe for a bit, but you’d eventually pick up the phone and cure your inevitable boredom, right?
If you were in the same room but replaced the phone with a green marker and permission to use it on any surface in the room, what would you do? Again, sit there quietly with your thoughts? Or would you take that marker and go to town on all the surfaces available?
When I was in school, I doodled on my notes in class. I didn’t have any devices to play with, so drawing was my next best distraction. Eventually, those doodles would turn into an idea for a new piece of art, and then I found myself drawing even when I wasn’t forced to sit in class.
When you are bored, your brain is going to latch onto the fastest and easiest method to end the torture of boredom. This just happens to be our phone most of the time. Though, if you learn to use new tools to end your boredom, you can jumpstart your creativity instead of just mindlessly scrolling through the same three social media apps for hours.
Boredom is only temporary.
Boredom sucks. I know, but it doesn’t last long. Imagine the white room again. How many seconds would it take before you picked up your phone? And if you didn’t have your phone and only had that green marker, how many seconds until you uncapped that beast and started drawing on something?
I bet you’d do it in less than two minutes. That’s only 120 seconds of discomfort before your brain finds something to end the boredom.
Anytime I walk into an office to wait for an appointment, I always check in at the front desk, and then right after I sit down in the waiting room I have my phone out–probably within 15 seconds of sitting.
My brain: I’m bored. Oooo, phone!
And the boredom is gone–but so is my potential to create at that moment.
I want you to be bored and I want you to be intentional with your boredom. The discomfort won’t last long and if you point your boredom at creativity, the benefits will be amazing! I’ll show you how I do it.
How to Jumpstart Creativity with Boredom
1. Create an environment for creativity.
Remember, your brain wants the easiest and fastest way out of boredom, so you need to control your environment and make sure you give yourself productive boredom-ending tools.
This means you need to create a space in your house, your studio, or in your office that includes as many creative tools as possible. Create a space with all of the art supplies you love using. Have a shelf full of your supplies so you can easily look at them and grab what speaks to you.
Most importantly, this space shouldn’t include the tools and devices that easily distract you and aren’t in the creative realm. Put your laptop in a drawer and hide your phone. If you remove those items from your sight, your brain only has the option to grab a creative tool to end boredom.
2. Schedule time for it.
Boredom should be scheduled like sleep, exercise, and meals. Consider the discomfort of boredom as creative self-care and put it on your calendar. It’s not going to be pleasant at first. If you don’t feel inspired to create and you force yourself to sit in a room with just your art supplies, it’s going to suck, but I promise it will be completely worth it.
3. Fight the urge to find an easy distraction.
Remember my itch to look at my phone? As I’ve been writing this blog post I have been tempted by many easy distractions: An email notification. A FedEx delivery from Blick Art Materials (OMG, I can’t wait to unbox all of the new supplies I ordered!), the hunger in my belly for lunch, and the Amazon tab I have open just to the left of this tab.
Creative work is hard work. The things that easily distract us are not. It’s completely reasonable that we’d want to choose the easy things to occupy our time, but we must fight the urges. For me, I use the easy distractions as a reward for completing the creative work. Once I hit publish on this post, I’m going to stuff my face with food and then open ALL THE BOXES! But not until the moment I’m done.
Fight the urge. Do the hard work first.
4. Disconnect from your devices completely.
Technology is addictive because it cures boredom instantly. You open up your phone and you have notifications popping left and right. You have access to social media, games, news, weather, dating apps, and more within seconds.
Give yourself more power over distractions. Turn off push notifications for your most common time wasters. Give yourself blocks of time where you turn on “Do Not Disturb” or leave your devices in another room.
If you work on digital art, or have a lot of tasks to complete on your devices that are creatively motivated, then clean up your digital workspace. Close all programs that aren’t related to creativity and definitely turn off ALL notifications.
Boredom is a Gift
Don’t squander it. Embrace the discomfort of boredom. If we get rid of technology, we are still going to crave mental stimulation. All I want you to do is use your need for mental stimulation to your advantage to help unleash your creativity.
What kind of creative messes could you get yourself into if you stuck yourself in a room with only your art supplies? You’d be surprised just how much creative noise your brain can make after a couple of minutes of boredom.
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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.