We dread them, whether they blindside us, or we keep one eye open for them, they are unwelcomed visitors. Boredom and creative blockages are two things that can snare up your day very quickly. Boredom brings with it an anxiety of, “I should be doing something. What am I missing?” Blocakges in creative thought have similar emotions tied to them.
Each of these terrible twins are viewed as something to abolish out of our lives completely. While Benjamin Franklin’s quote about house guests, these in particular, is true that they stink after three days, that doesn’t mean they are completely worthless. If used properly, these two can be made to work for us, and not against us. There are benefits to boredom and blockages, if you know where to find them.
We assume a bored or blocked brain is one of inactivity. Our anxiety over the boredom and blockage is proof that is not the case. What we can do is alter our activity during these blackout periods. Instead of allowing worry to control these periods, we can make them work for us.
The first is by remembering that every mind needs a period of calm. Short spaces of rest in these moments can fuel us instead of frustrating us. Our biggest fear during these times is that our brain will cease to act, or that it can never act again. Notice, we don’t view quitting time with the same fear. We know that after 8-12 hour shifts, we will rest, eat, relax, refuel, and then start again. The same is true of boredom and blockages.
When your mind is blank, and can’t find anything to do, then purpose to relax. Listen to music or some form of entertainment. Take a walk, or plan what you’re going to fix for dinner. In other words, allow little to light mental activity. That will give your brain the stimulus it misses without overtaxing it. It also will allow the pipeline to remain open for inspiration to walk through the door.
Many of life’s most productive periods came out of a period of inactivity. Einstein found this to be true, and what better inspiration for a painter than a walk? You aren’t doing nothing, you will create again, but you may simply be two steps ahead of your inspiration. Pause, and allow it to catch up with you.
The second thing we can prepare for this is by banking projects. In your overly creative times, set an idea, a project, or dream aside. In that mental factory in your head, place it in a box marked rainy days, and place it on your shelf. An idea chest like we talked about yesterday should have a rainy day list.
Even if every word, stroke of paint, lyric, or note you write during this period is absolutely horrible, record it. If nothing else, it will occupy the vacuum, and once the period is over, you can tweak what you have, or begin again. The key is not to eliminate the boredom, or shatter the block, they’ll both go in time. The object is to deal with the antagonistic emotions that whisper you’ll never be productive again.
“The boredom and blockage do not define you, but they can benefit you.”
The third way to deal with this is through perspective. The child who wants to ride their bike views a rainy day as a crime against nature. Her farmer Dad knows how much she likes to eat the melons, strawberries, and blackberries that the rain causes to grow. Just as the rain is good for the soil, boredom and blockages have benefits.
Beyond resting our brain, they should make us appreciate who we are, what we’ve been blessed with, and where we are in life. If we can, even for a minute, take inventory of all the good, then these two issues are instantly smaller in our eyes. As a writer I understand how concerning these two things can be, so no one is attempting to minimize them. Only to emphasize the other factors in our lives. Once we do that, it opens doors to the other avenues around us.
When we realize that Charles Dickens was more than a writer, but a man with an entire life beyond the written word, it gives us a new understanding of how he thought. If that is true of someone we read about, how much more is it about ourselves? You are more than how you feel at this moment, you’re more than your next project, or deadline. If you don’t produce something today, your spouse will still love you, your friends will still appreciate you, and your employer will still benefit from you.
Your body of work will be filled with good days and bad, slow times and fast paced ones. The good thing about that is, if you are a consistent person, people can only look back on your work. They can’t touch, taste, or hold those times when you were bored or blocked. The boredom and blockage do not define you, but they can benefit you. They are only roadblocks along the way, don’t allow them to unnerve you. Place an exit sign and a convenience store by them, take a rest stop, grab a snack, and refuel. Allow them to benefit you on your journey, and when it’s time, get back on the highway, and wave to them in your rearview mirror.