The Art of Boredom by Michelle Schamis

We are programmed at an early age that getting things done (and many of them) is important. Eat your peas. Recite your alphabet. Can you ride a bike? And balance a spoon on your nose? Who is going to win the race? Are you?
Not many people start up a conversation with: Can you be bored?
How bored were you this weekend? The word bored gets a bad rap. Some quick online research on the topic of bored or boring reveals photos of people looking idle or sad as if they were sighing and staring, looking right through the computer screen to say, “I’m bored! can you help me?”
Certainly there are times when, left without any particular job or activity, things can just seem, well, downright dull. But there are good things about being bored and idle.
Allowing quiet time to read

Allowing quiet time to read – Michelle Schamis


For me, many hours were spent in the studio being idle.   Art school both in undergrad and grad provided plenty of moments that were not all taken up with production. Time was necessary. Part of that creative process was reflection. Not every painting worked and there was frustration and moments that were unfocused. Boredom was there as a student.

Creating great works of art and composition often come from periods of, you got it: boredom.
Perhaps there are better words than boring for what I’m referring to, like quiet or idle. Allowing ourselves to switch things off also allows the creative centers in the brain to work freely and to begin to associate previously unrelated thoughts in new, sometimes insightful ways. As writers and artists we all know the effects that can come to us simply if we take that mental break, perhaps go for a walk or read a good book or just sit and breathe. Moments like that help with exploration and ideas, and often that’s where where they begin to take off.
Allowing time to just float!

Allowing time to just float! – Michelle Schamis

Think back to childhood and some of your best memories surrounding sparks of creativity. In my own children, I see some of their greatest creative moments happening, not during the stretches packed with school and activities, but rather during those quiet moments when they’re left to discover their own direction. There are times when I let them get bored. Really bored. And that’s when the magic begins.
Allowing time to walk on the beach

Allowing time to walk on the beach – Michelle Schamis

Walking in the woods or on a beach, without the usual accompaniment of toys, they make their own tools, build their own forts, then find bits of sea glass to decorate the windows. Indoors, I let them spend hours playing creative games like Minecraft where they explore a world built and governed by themselves with other kids. Without the structure and rules imposed by the outside world, they’re free to design their own worlds. I let them sleep in, create their own schedules and they read what they want, rather than what’s on an arbitrary list.
How many of us feel that, as writers and artists, the greatest a-ha moments simply happen when we allow ourselves to step beyond the typical rules of the day? The act of creating things, whether writing or illustrating or painting, can come from that timeless push of nothingness.
So what to do when your bored: Listen in. Breathe. Bring a small notebook for those ideas, those words that may have had you tongue tied when you were glued to the desk or the computer or the phone. It’s during those moments of free association when things that are unexplainable in the regular world come 
into clear focus.
You can visit Michelle online at
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3 Responses to The Art of Boredom by Michelle Schamis

  1. I am slowly learning that being temporarily stuck isn’t cause for panic….it’s time to slow down and be “bored” for a little while! Thanks for this reminder, Michelle. I know that for me, the best ideas usually come when I’m not actively looking for them, but rather, when I slow down and take a walk or a drive and do something else. It all comes down to finding that balance between “butt in chair” time and taking time to let ideas come to you.

  2. Debra Cooper says:

    I truly enjoyed this article and agree that as frustrating as it might be to be stuck and not creating – it is the quiet and still moments when ideas are born and solutions can be resolved. When I am driving a long distance by myself to visit family I enjoy the 3.5 hr drive in silence for the freedom of thinking and sometimes a short drive will conjure up a fun little poem or phrase that might go along with some art I created. (i am not a writer, but get tickled over the fact I wrote something)

  3. hmmmmm says:

    There is a funny Louis C.K. video about cel phones and how we have this habit of checking and using them when we are alone — as if being alone with ourselves is so frightening. Being bored feels like a close cousin somehow. And both — being along and being bored — really are sooooooo important!!

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