The other day I was making dinner and, as is my routine, I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR while moving about the kitchen. A story about boredom came on. If you haven’t listened to it, the crux of it is that there is a lack of creativity because we are never bored anymore, thanks to our smart phones.
Studies suggest that we get our most original ideas when we stop the constant stimulation and let ourselves get bored….
Steven Johnson talks about how letting the disparate ideas that you read, hear, see, etc, come together in his book Where Great Ideas Come From.
But encouragement does not necessarily lead to creativity. Collisions do—the collisions that happen when different fields of expertise converge in some shared physical or intellectual space.
I wonder if, in order for the collisions to occur, do you need some space, some time, to allow it all to collide?
I spend a lot of time walking around my neighborhood. Most days, I go out at lunch and run errands, walking to the grocery store, the library, or wherever it is that I need to go. Over the past several years, I’ve left the house for these errands with my wallet, a key to the house, and a bag for my purchases (I’m a good Portlander after all)—nothing more.
The choice to leave the house with nothing digital was very deliberate in the beginning. But once I started leaving my house without a phone or iPad, I started to relish it. I take in the sights and sounds of my neighborhood and I let my mind wander. I may solve a problem that I was working on in code, or I may come up with an idea to write about. Truth be told, these walks have become where the vast majority of my writing ideas start.
So when I hear people, like one person in the story on NPR, scoff at the need for boredom, for space to just let your mind do its thing, I find it surprising. Because times of quiet is what keeps me sane, especially lately.