Creativity is key to being a successful food blogger; it's essential to recipes, photos and writing that draw your readers in. Yet, what's essential to creativity? As Tiffany Mayer tells us, the answer — surprisingly enough — is boredom!
Think about the last time you were bored.
Hard-pressed to remember? You aren’t alone. If you’re like me, it’s been a while. Deadlines, family commitments, the drive to come up with the next great delicata squash recipe, and the need to respond to that tweet can do a great job keeping us occupied.
All the while, we may have been patting ourselves on the back for showing up the person who told us only boring people get bored. But it turns out we might be doing ourselves a disservice by avoiding the luxury of boredom.
Good things come from long spells of idle hands. While they’re taking a break from scrolling through a social media feed, typing on a keyboard, or chopping up that squash, our minds certainly won’t be standing still. They’ll be doing some of the best thinking they’ve been allowed to do in a long time.
What is Boredom?
F. Scott Fitzgerald summed up the benefits of boredom best when he said, “Boredom is not an end product; it is, comparatively, rather an early stage in life and art. You’ve got to go by or past or through boredom, as through a filter, before the clear product emerges.”
This from a guy who wrote one of the best American novels of the 20th century.
But what exactly is boredom? Professors at York University who have spent more than a decade studying boredom define it as not being “able to engage our attention with internal or external information (thoughts and feelings, and environmental stimuli respectively) required for participating in satisfying activity. We’re focused on the fact we can’t engage attention and participate in satisfying activity, and attribute the cause of our aversive state to the environment.”
That makes being bored sound fraught with a whole boatload of problems but there is an upside, which Fitzgerald alluded to.
Why Tedium Can Be Tops
When we allow ourselves to get bored, to not be occupied by anything or interested in our surroundings, we encourage our minds to wander. That can lead us to some amazing places.
Remember how Socrates waxed philosophical about the unexamined life? Being bored can force us to be introspective and do some important examining. It’s time to assess our current state of affairs.
All that spontaneous thought can inspire us to set goals to keep the good things going, or change the bad, and help us map out ways of achieving either.
It can also lead to some of our most original, creative ideas, like what to do with that delicata squash. If the idea of another squash soup seemed ho-hum, giving into an afternoon of ennui might inspire the most incredible soufflé, and some unique ideas for writing or shooting a post about it.
Boredom makes us innovative and gives our problem-solving skills the chance to shine. What might appear to be a snafu or writer’s block to a stressed or occupied mind may have a simple solution that only a wandering mind can stumble upon.
Ennui enables us to become more aware of our surroundings, too. We might see things we’ve never really noticed before. That can cause a change in perspective, or inspire new appreciation of something we’ve long taken for granted or overlooked.
How exciting is that?
How to be bored
Getting to that state of gentle boredom and experiencing its benefits can be a challenge when we’re so used to being busy. Here are few ways to get you to Dullsville.
Set a timer. Embracing boredom isn’t easy, especially when we consider the negative connotations of being idle. It might be ingrained in us that doing nothing is being lazy. So start by giving yourself a set amount of time to take advantage of tedium.
Unplug. Don’t just put the phone down. Put it in a drawer and leave it there for an afternoon, or better yet, a full day. Resist that manufactured need to check in on Facebook, post that photo of lunch or fill the quiet moments in a day with the white noise of an electronic device. Gazing off into space instead of at Instagram will take your mind in all kinds of directions.
Sit alone. Get away from people and get used to being by yourself again. Pull up a chair in your backyard, take a load off on a park bench, or sit at the front of the bus where the only view is the driver’s head. Enjoy the ride and where your mind will take you when left to its own devices.
Doodle. Letting loose with a pen and paper, especially in a repetitive pattern might sound, well, boring. But it’s perfect if you want slip into daydream mode and reap the benefits of boredom.
For more reading check out our 15 Day Series on Falling Back In Love With Your Blog
Entertaining Ennui: The Benefits of Boredom was written by Tiffany Mayer, a freelance journalist and author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). She blogs about food and farming at eatingniagara.com. You can also listen to her newly launched food podcast, Grub.