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  • Nadya Booyse

the gift of being bored

Isn’t history ultimately the result of our fear of boredom? - Emile M. Cioran


When was the last time you were bored?

Getting to the point of this pit-stop rather quickly: boredom breeds creativity, it inspires, and it ads meaning to things we previously didn't even think about. But we don't really think that highly of being bored, and in our current world order, we don't have to be, and there is a whole generation who has never been.


In the middle of this pandemic that we find ourselves in, the gift I gave myself was to start transferring some of my stories and poems to an easier-to-edit digital format. I have been writing stories and poetry since I was 16, but I am acutely and painfully aware that in the last 10 years or so, I have penned very little and only through great pain and effort.

As I was transferring stacks and stacks of notebooks and paper, I was amazed at how much I had to say when I started and how wonderfully I was able to say it. A bunch of it is just YA angst and heartaches, but I spun yarns and folded words in ways and with skill that I had forgotten I had. Although amazed at the potential I had penned, I was also deeply troubled at what had been lost. So I started researching and reading what creative people were doing to keep their youthful inspiration flowing.

The information is vast and no two souls do things 100% the same so I honestly did not come up with any concrete answer, although I did follow a couple of suggestions that seemed to apply to my life.

I wondered whether inspiration and creativity were perhaps the gifts of youth and the angst that comes with it, and whether, if it is not cultivated throughout, it got lost. Forever? But there were also enough people that started writing in their middle age to prove that wrong.


And then, as almost everyone knows, I quit social media. And since I had no games on my phone, I no longer had instant distraction at my fingertips.

Oh my soul! was I bored! Yes, I realise it hasn't even been a month, but there were days when I thought I would die while waiting, in line, on my kids, for the kettle to boil... some kinds of activities and waiting are beyond the remedy of a good book, and I found myself being at the mercy of my boredom more often than I knew I used my phone as a distraction from it.

But then I started noticing a change in both my behaviour and my thinking:

Instead of trying to snapshot life and thinking about adding it to my internet personality, I was avoiding the pictures and describing events in words, wondering how and which stories they would fit into;

Instead of picking up my phone, I was staring out of the window, sometimes just letting my mind wonder, and at other times finding the words to connect to what I was seeing;

I wake up with words bubbling over and find myself not being able to write fast enough to pen them all to paper;

Stories that need to be told are finding me, sometimes asking to be extrapolated and made flesh, and other times just to be considered.


I no longer wonder where my creativity went, for I cannot write fast enough to contain everything that is rising within me. They may be very mediocre, but it doesn't matter. Creativity doesn't ask us to be great, it simply asks us to grab hold of the force that wants to be made manifest within this world, the stories we need to share, the visions we need to capture, the things we need to claim and proclaim about our who we are and how we show up in the world. It asks us to take action. Or perhaps the void of boredom sucks it all into existence. Apparently, the universe doesn't like a vacuum...


This past week, I took my kids technology away. We have always had fairly strict time limits on screen time, but after seeing the effect on myself, I became fairly annoyed with their insistence on being entertained and reluctance to feel into the void. We have had periods of disconnection in the past before, but this time I was taking notes:

Every time we have had a disconnect, the period of whining and having nothing to do has shortened and they have become more comfortable to be by themselves.

There isn't an entity on earth that will tap into their creative pool faster than a kid who has nothing to do.

Which begs the question: what damage are we doing to our own evolution, when we are bringing up a whole generation who won't ever experience the gift that is boredom?


For the sake of clarity though, not everyone's distraction lies in social media or games or the internet, but for the bulk of us, it lies somewhere on those little devices that we get to take everywhere with us, and which prohibits our mind from working through the mundane into the void that leads to inspiration.


Which made me look into the effect of boredom on our minds. Turns out, boredom has a very measurable effect on our brains (of course someone has studied this and of course we have found a name for it). Yes, I googled this to confirm that I wasn't just making things up (google 'Bored Brain' or 'Default Mode Network' to understand the science behind this).


In my one journal I once penned the words: CREATIVITY IS AN AMPLIFIED LIFE. Creativity and inspiration are not necessarily art, or perhaps all of life is art but let's leave that discussion for today; Creativity is simply a life that makes use of the creative force that exists within each of us, and it would seem that when we kill off boredom, we may be killing the seed that births it.

If we acknowledge this, what does it ask us to change in the way we do things?

And if we resist either the acknowledgement or the change, are we trying to find out why?

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