Fighting the Boredom Beast

office_boredomI’m back at work now, pretending to be all grown up. My partner is taking some time off his work to be a full-time Dad, which is wonderful for us all. I can go to work knowing that my lad (who we have dubbed The Beast) is going to have a fun day, and my partner gets some time with our little guy while he’s still little, which is something I suspect many dads miss out on.Sounds great, right?

It is, and yet, and yet…

I suppose it’s part of human nature to not be able to bask in the glow of contentment for long. Don’t get me wrong – I know I am incredibly lucky, in so many ways which I won’t enumerate here. But take yesterday, as an example. The chaps went to Healesville Sanctuary, and had a lovely time looking at Australian animals in the sunshine. I was bored out of my brain behind a computer terminal. Work just isn’t that interesting. It’s a ridiculously middle class, privileged viewpoint, but I’m interested in discussing what the implications of that boredom are.

I remember quite clearly that in all honesty, I was pretty bored some days when I was at home full time with The Beast, as well. Am I easily bored? My mother would say so, but left to my own devices, I am more than competent at filling in a day. There are an awful lot of things which I’d like to be doing, which engage me and which I can totally lose myself in. The experts apparently call this state ‘flow’.

I watched a documentary on the weekend about the pursuit of happiness, and how having a profession where you are in a state of ‘flow’ much of the time is a big help. All of us who write, or paint, or draw, know that blissful feeling of being carried away to the extent that you forget to eat, and hours zoom by win the blink of an eye. Some people get it through running, or cooking. It is, in many ways, the antithesis of boredom. Instead of time dragging, it evaporates. You emerge tousled, exhausted, and yet joyful.

It’s for this reason that I can’t take on board the prescribed wisdom that to write, you must do so every day, whether you feel like it or not. For me, creativity is a great form of pleasure, and one which should be indulged as a spoilt child – frequently, frivolously, and without imposed rules and schedules.

What are your thoughts? Is being bored a privileged position? Is it necessary to experience boredom to appreciate the joy of ‘flow’?

3 thoughts on “Fighting the Boredom Beast

  1. I have to say that in my family Bored was a bad word which resulted in chores. 🙂 So we learned very quickly not to EVER be bored. Haha. I guess I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I’m very rarely bored. I generally find that if I am bored it has more to do with other problems like trying to do something I really don’t want – ie read when I really want to go watch a movie – or it’s because I think there is some silver lining out there and I’m not being content with where I’m at right now….but I’m also one of those strange people who make themselves write every day as a discipline. lol.
    So….yeah, I can get bored, but I generally have so much on my plate boredom looks like a nice tropical Island off in the distance.

  2. I struggle with these questions now and again… first, I think it’s OK to put the ‘it’s a middle class privilege’ thing aside, it’s when any of us don’t recognise our privileges, whatever or where we are, that’s the problem.

    I was even thinking yesterday that if you’re in the mood to create something, you just have to do it. I sat up in bed at 1am the other day, turned on the laptop and started writing the story I’d meant to write for ages (trying to keep the keyboard taps quiet so not to wake the house). And it worked.

    I’ve been both sides – the office boredom, being caged in one place at defined times, the feeling you’ve sold your life to someone else – and so I opted out. Into the other side, earning a living for myself at my own pace – and that’s more complicated. There are great elephants in the room called Motivation and Structure and What Do I Really Want To Do.

    And later, the realisation that once you get outside the boundaried space of ‘going to work in an office’ (which everyone respects) and into ‘working from my office at home’ (which lots of people don’t) there’s a great tide of life that’s ready to rush in if you’re not keeping those elephants as tamed as the tightest circus. Nothing is too trivial or too enormous to flood the space you want to be filled with all those ‘flow’ moments – everything from blocked drains, to the vain hope and desire to give everyone, from dogs and partners to random family members to old friends or new ones, the happiest life possible (mark that up as a very big sea), to any kind of philosophical hooks that snag us from time to time…

    I sometimes think we shouldn’t knock boredom, or get too thrilled with those ‘flow’ moments either. Maybe it’s not boredom, just fallow time, a rest time when all the creative stuff (however you create) is quietly brewing in the background. It’s all ebb and flow and it all balances I reckon. We just need to look after those elephants.

  3. I think the issue — for me, at least — is having limitations put upon what we can do with our time. Responsibilities, you know. I have dozens of things to do on any given day, and yet I don’t do some of them because they’re not stimulating — in other words, boring. That doesn’t make them less necessary or even less valuable. I think I find boredom in not doing the things that give me pleasure, or in procrastinating the things which do not. And sometimes I mistake boredom for a lack of energy, though not often. (By which I mean that I can easily identify my lack of energy most of the time!)

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