Songwriting and the Value of Boredom

Research shows that boredom helps us become more creative.

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Songwriting, and the value of boredomThe results of a study released earlier this year from the University of Central Lancashire, by Dr Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, suggest that a bit of boredom can actually lead to an increase of creativity. Their findings showed that people who engaged in boring tasks before trying to be creative were able to be even more imaginative.

In the experiment, a group of people were asked to come up with as many different uses of a pair of styrofoam cups as possible. Another group was instructed to first spend 15 minutes doing a very boring task: writing out numbers from a phone book.

The results showed that the group that began by copying numbers were able to come up with more and better ideas than the ones that immediately set to the task of creating uses for the cups. They then altered the experiment, instructing a third group to merely read the numbers rather than writing them out. That group turned out to be the most creative of all, suggesting (since reading is a more passive activity than writing) that boredom was the cause of the increased creativity.

The real question is whether or not this has a bearing on songwriting. If you find that the writer’s block you suffer from is a simple lack of ideas (as opposed to getting stuck once ideas are created), you might want to see if Mann and Cadman’s experiment offers positive results. You could try copying phone numbers for 15 minutes before writing music. Specifically, do the following:

  1. Start every songwriting session by giving yourself a 15-minute break. Don’t try to sleep, simply relax and allow your brain to clear.
  2. Try something completely mindless, such as counting floor tiles, the leaves on a houseplant, the number of words on a page from a book, etc.
  3. Throw a “do nothing” session into the middle of your songwriting session. This works especially if you find yourself becoming frustrated or lacking direction.

It’s normal to think that everything you do in preparation for songwriting should pertain somehow to music, but the research shows that the brain benefits from simply trying to shut it down. For me, simply getting up and away from my desk long enough to make a coffee is usually all I need to get feeling creative again.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: How to Use Boredom to Become a Better Songwriter | The Essential Secrets of Songwriting

  2. This is why my best writing is done first thing in the morning, when the brain has turned off, but does it really turn off ,? I believe the subconscious works on any problems we give it.
    luckily these days writing songs and Pitching songs is my main thing,

    JImmy Web does half hour of writing and then naps between lines of musical phrases ,
    very similar to what you are suggesting here. another ides is to go and do something else like cutting the lawn, or mucking out the pigs, (if you have a smallholding or farm)
    you then come back to whatever you are writing refreshed,( as long as you clean your boots after mucking out the pigs )

    I’m serious ! I know it sounds quite bizarre but it works.

    Here maybe this is why i write a lot of songs with an agricultural, comical flavour .

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