Relax: Boredom Can be an Artist’s Best Friend


Never in the history of the world have artists been so viciously assaulted by things to do other than their art.

We live in a world where news is beamed into our hands almost instantaneously and every day a new form of entertainment threatens to ensnare our attention. And this, of course, is the complaint many of us have when we look back on our day having done barely any work on our project but having read every tweet out there about a celebrity couple’s divorce.

To be fair, though, you can’t blame social media and iPhones for all of this. Before the first radio was invented, artists were looking for ways to distract themselves from their work — put an artist in a room with their project and some rocks and we guarantee those rocks are going to get a lot of attention before the day’s over.

There of course is the issue of losing that spark you once had and trying to find ways to get it back, but another big stumbling blocks artists have is that they don’t remember that often being an artist and “working” on your art consists of doing absolutely nothing. And we don’t mean nothing because your hands are folded while you perfectly map out everything in your head — we mean nothing. Doodling, or staring into space or even falling asleep. All of these things serious artists do when they’re “working.” If they were truly painting or writing or composing shots all the time they would have millions of words, hundreds of paintings and enough photos to fill an entire hard drive.

Instead they’re often just bored. Their mind wanders. They think about making another cup of coffee or what they’re gonna have for dinner. They go find a sleeping pet and wake them up, hoping for a distraction. Many of the world’s best artists spend hours each day doing so little each day, a data-entry job is exciting by comparison.

But that is what you need. You need to be alone with your thoughts. You need to let your mind stall. You need to stare into the abyss of utter tedium. Because that is when your brain turns on its defense mechanism, the thing that you began to notice when you were a kid.

You remember, when you were at a wedding, or curtain shopping with your mom, or wading through the interminable minutes after a test when you couldn’t talk or do anything but sit and wait in the silence. That is when you started to come up with ideas, piecing together little fantasies, thinking of ways you could escape.

When every boredom is amused, then there is no point to create anything interesting yourself.  So embrace the dullness, celebrate the ennui, befriend the malaise. This very well may be the way you come up with your next great idea.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.