Thursday, October 20, 2016

Creativity Is Sometimes a Boredom Thing

Brain scans tell us that multi-tasking, as in doing more than one task at a time, doesn't exist. What the brain does do is switch from one task to another, doing each badly. And women are no better at this than men. With screen ubiquity people are doing what they do worse than they would by just sustaining a focus on one task. Kids, research has shown, can study for about two minutes before getting distracted. The skill of paying attention to what we are doing is underdeveloped. Face to face human interaction has become a dying art. Research also points to increased anxiety when we can't check in with our phones. In meetings, we don't follow what is being covered because we are looking at a screen, our brains somewhere other than here and now. Our lives are moving on line to an ongoing stream of distraction. We have become intolerant of boredom. (I am not referring to the boredom born of mind-numbing, repetitive, monotonous drudgery called modern work, but that which arises from creating a space free from distraction.) The problem here is that some things require a degree of tedium to accomplish. To be creative, we have to sit with quiet, empty, and sometimes boring "space" to discover a heretofore unknown potential. The brain then can kick into gear to produce something -- an answer to a problem, a line for a poem, an insight previously not available -- rather than merely receive or consume. It's a boredom thing. 


  1. Can I share this with my students? They can't seem to stop fondling their phones. I shame them openly. They still reach for it. They think that, for some reason, I can't see that they're busy with their hand in their pocket or somewhere else in the hinterland beneath their desk and in their laps. Perhaps shaming isn't the best approach, although it comes in the form of politely asking them to "put it away, please." Perhaps shaming will only contribute to a compulsion to do the forbidden, despite whatever socially unacceptable context they do it in. Like....when "talking" to friends, or when on a date....pulling it out..blatantly under people's noses.

    1. Have them check this out:

    2. thanks! Maybe they can use this for their comparative genres assignment....;-)