In defense of being bored

“It isn’t necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you to be unmasked, it can do no other, it will writhe before you in ecstasy.” – Franz Kafka

Most of us think of being bored at work as a negative experience, but there’s some fascinating research on the role of boredom in promoting creative thinking.

In the first study, conducted by Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, participants had to copy names from a phone book. It wasn’t even a cool phone book with fantasy names like Dumbledore or Flitwick. It was a standard phone book that pretty much nobody uses anymore.

After participants copied the names from the phone book, they engaged in divergent thinking exercises where they had to come up with multiple uses for an object. This bored group scored higher in divergent thinking than the control group.

They later modified this study by having participants read the phone book instead of writing out the names. This group reported higher levels of boredom and proved more successful in the divergent thinking exercise of naming multiple uses for an object.

The second study (by Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood) required people to watch videos that would elicit specific emotions. The group that watched only boring videos had to then look at three objects that were seemingly unrelated and determine how they were related. Unlike the first study, this group’s activity was focused more on convergent thinking.

Note the differences in both studies. The first experiment required participants to engage in a tedious, repetitive task. However, they were actively engaged in it. The second study required participants to sit passively through boring content. The first focused in divergent thinking and the second focused on convergent thinking.

However, both studies demonstrated that a period of boredom actually increased the level of creative thinking afterward.

Boredom Is The Start Of Creativity

It sounds counter-intuitive, but several recent studies show that boredom can actually fuel the creative process. Read more…..

Creativity is Subtraction

I read about this sentence first time while browsing Wikipedia about Steal Like an Artist, the idea is based on a book with same name on coming up with creative ideas, by Austin Kleon.

What it means?

The closest I can think of is in the design of products like smart phones, instead of having dozens of buttons you just have few home and navigation buttons.

In an age of information overload and abundance, focus is important. Choose what you want to leave out of your key work. “Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The best way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself”, says Austin Kleon author of Steal Like an Artist.

A good example of design by constraints is Dr Seuss wrote his bestselling book “Green Egg and Ham” with only 50 different words (source). Saul Steinberg says a work of art represents a struggle against limitations. Creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out,” advises Kleon.

If the subtractive principle of art is still not clear, let me leave you with the image of a Zen garden where a single stone and a bit of raked sand convey oceans of meaning.

ryoanji-jardin-zen-seco-rocas-movimiento-sensaciones

Creativity is subtraction
it helps eliminate the un-neccessaties of life
sometimes, at least
less is more