A year or so ago, I wrote a post about the power of boredom to songwriters. In short, the research is showing that people who are bored score higher in creativity tests. This morning I was listening to a program on CBC Radio 1 called “Ripple Effect.” Part of the show was devoted to the detrimental effects that cell phones (i.e., smartphones) are having on our creative abilities.
You can listen to a podcast of that show here, though it may be limited to Canadian listeners; I’m not sure. In discussing the negative effects that phones have on us, the program referred to research being conducted by M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle:
“…the overuse of smartphones is making us lose empathy for each other and Turkle is on a mission to reclaim face-to-face conversation in our over-connected age.”
What was also said in the show was that the fact that we’re never without our phones means that we’re never bored. As soon as boredom becomes a possibility, out come our phones, and we get busy with something: texting, Facebook, news sites… they all keep us focused and doing something.
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The research is showing that boredom is an important first step in developing creative and innovative ideas.
Our society generally has a negative view of boredom, and I suspect that’s mainly because boredom and laziness are considered to be two sides of the same coin. But to creative people, boredom gets the brain seeking out brain-based ways to become less bored.
You’ll read in that article I previously wrote that experiments have shown this to be true. People will find more creative solutions to problems if they start the creative process with boring tasks.
In light of the fact that it’s hard to force yourself to “get bored,” here are some ideas for preparing your mind for a songwriting session that gets you thinking creatively:
- Start songwriting with “quiet time”. Sit down, relax, and try to empty your mind of the days activities and responsibilities. It’s tempting to whip out the phone and start texting, but resist!
- Go for a walk. A slow walk through your neighbourhood might be all you need to slow your thinking down to the point where you’re ready for something more creative.
- Take breaks as you write. Writing songs can raise frustration levels as you work to get something sounding right. Fill your songwriting sessions with more down time as a way to keep negativity from creeping in.
- Try “quasi-creative” non-music activities to incite a bit of boredom. If you do find yourself feeling frustrated, simply sitting and thinking about your songwriting problems may make things worse. Try sketching, colouring, paint-by-numbers, or any other activity that doesn’t require your specific creative input.
- Reorganize your life if necessary. Sometimes, our busy lives make it difficult to develop a strong sense of creativity. If it’s possible, find ways to give yourself time away from your daily responsibilities and commitments. That may mean coming up with a new schedule for yourself, one that you need to write down and stick to. Do whatever it takes to give you solid chunks of free time.
We’re conditioned to think of boredom as a bad thing, so the first step in all of this might be to rethink the way you evaluate free time. Boredom isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s a necessary part of creating music that connects to others.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter
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