In this article from wired.com, Clive Thompson explores how allowing space for boredom inspires creativity. Without time to let the mind wonder, we may not give ourselves the space we need for imaginative thought, which is important throughout our lives for learning and development.
“I‘m dying of Boredom” complains the young wife, Yelena, in Chekhov’s 1897 play Uncle Vanya. “I don’t know what to do.” Of course, if Yelena were around today, we know how she’d alleviate her boredom: She’d pull out her smartphone and find something diverting, like BuzzFeed or Twitter or Clash of Clans. If you have a planet’s worth of entertainment in your pocket, it’s easy to stave off ennui.
Unless it turns out ennui is good for us. What if boredom is a meaningful experience—one that propels us to states of deeper thoughtfulness or creativity?
That’s the conclusion of two fascinating recent studies. In one, researchers asked a group of subjects to do something boring, like copying out numbers from a phone book, and then take tests of creative thinking, such as devising uses for a pair of cups. The result? Bored subjects came up with more ideas than a nonbored control group, and their ideas were often more creative. In a second study, subjects who took an “associative thought” word test came up with more answers when they’d been forced to watch a dull screensaver.