Tuesday, November 22, 2016

On the Value of Boredom

Delfie visiting her namesake at
Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota
by Susan

My phone is named "Delfie." It was my first smartphone and, not long after I got it, my husband and I took a cross-country trip to Minnesota. He kept referring to it as "The Oracle," as in, "Where's the cheapest gas? Consult The Oracle," or "How many miles to Omaha? Consult The Oracle."

Hence, the Oracle at Delphi. Hence, Delfie.

Life changed when I got Delfie. My emails came in real time, not just when I was at the computer. Facebook was always there... beckoning. A long wait at the doctor's office was a great excuse to catch up on reading blogs and to cruise Pinterest. Mornings found me flat on the couch with Stephen Colbert. (Double entendre intended... a girl can dream, can't she?) Then there were the downloadable audiobooks from the library! I need never walk to work without words in my ears again.

I knew it was not conducive to writing, but I couldn't seem to put Delfie down.

Not long ago, I was pointed to this video of Neil Gaiman discussing the value of boredom for writers. The boredom bit starts just after the one-minute mark.




Apparently, Mr. Gaiman recommends boredom often, and I think he's right. Between Delfie and taking on a faster-spaced job, I'd squeezed all the thinking time out of my life.

I'm not typically a believer in the law of attraction -- I rolled my eyes all the way through The Secret when I slogged my way through it for story research -- but since I began thinking about my need for boredom, I suddenly saw a spate of articles on the topic, which I share with you here.

Take a lesson from cats.
Cats understand the value of doing nothing. 
The Lost Art of Doing Nothing
"I put my phone away. But that’s when the awkwardness set in. If you want to feel out of place in a public setting these days, just start staring off into space or watching people as they walk by. Do it long enough and someone is liable to walk up and ask you if you’re feeling OK."
No Service
"It occurs to me that I’m very much enjoying having no [phone] service. I like this feeling, this middle of nowhere. Out of contact with everyone except those that are in this car with me, the ones that mean the most."
Boredom is Fascinating!
"Ironically, the portal to the greatest wisdom and happiness very often can be where we least expect it, in those times in life where we feel restless, anxious, and bored."

I took Neil's advice. I took a walk -- without an audiobook stuck in my ears. I could hear the wind in the trees. I stopped and molested strangers' dogs (with their permission, of course). I people-watched and began spinning stories in my head about their lives. I came home and wrote my first poem in some time. Definitely just a draft, but you can't edit nothing, and nothing was all I had the day before and the day before that.

Boredom? It's definitely underrated. I highly recommend it.




2 comments:

  1. Great blog, Susan. The other day at Starbucks, as I waited for my order to be announced, I just watched a couple at a table with nothing on my mind. The woman's posture and face told me she was in pain. I didn't want to be caught staring, so I kept looking away and then back. When I looked away, everyone in there waiting for their order--it was a busy time--all were buried in their phones and missed this couple's sadness. I got a haiku and draft poem out of those few minutes. I wasn't bored, but I also wasn't distracted. And my walks have provided innumerable haiku and poems because I'm paying attention. I don't think a writer stays bored for long though. I think erasing distractions, like Delfie, allows the writing mind to find something interesting to focus on. Thanks again for another great blog. You and Lynn are on a roll.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Art. I had a good friend in high school who always said, "Only boring people get bored." Writers like us have the advantage that we can retreat into our own heads. Now, if I can only find the discipline to turn OFF sometimes. :)

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