It’s the holidays and the end of the year. For me, it’s the busiest time for my other work so I often feel stressed, tired and ready for the new year. As I have in most years, I tend to think about what is working and not working – and what I need to change. This year, I realized that my time for creative writing time was less since it has been so busy. So I wondered if it was time constraints or that my creativity wasn’t as strong right now. Where were my impulses that normally drive the writing? Was I ever in for a surprise.
Did you know that being tired or bored can increase your creativity? That was news to me. It never feels like that. But the theory is that if you have analytic work and you are a morning or night person, then you do that work then. But for creativity, it actually helps for you to be tired so that your brain isn’t functioning as efficiently. A tired brain won’t remember connections between ideas and concepts. Which is a good thing since that means it has to make new connections, think in different ways and be open to new ideas. In searching the Internet, I know my mind sometimes wanders – and just after Thanksgiving, I had one of those “aha” moments when I clicked on an image and a story idea crashed through. As I think back on it, I was distracted and tired, and maybe even a little bored.
A Scientific American article talks about distractions as good. “Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to ‘distraction’ can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.”
A study published in the Journal of Science consisted of participants placed in a room by themselves for six to fifteen minutes with nothing to do but think. Many found the experience unpleasant. But many studies have also found that boredom fuels creativity because it allows our minds to wander, something that doesn’t happen often with all the distractions of television, internet and other media.
Another study at the University of Central Lancashire, the participants in one group had to copy numbers out of a phone book for fifteen minutes while the other group was given a more creative task. When both groups were asked to come up with different uses for a polystyrene cup, the group that copied the numbers had the most uses.
So what does all this mean? Boredom can be a good thing. So can being tired and distracted. That explains the insights while driving long distances or taking a shower. I know I have had many story ideas or story problems solved while in the car. At those times, our minds can be a blank canvas for new ideas. I’m still tired from everything going on but I’m also more aware that I need to value this time. And maybe figure out a way to use it to my benefit for stories that I think I am “blocked” on or don’t know what comes next. So, I think I’m going to unplug from the Internet and sit a while, just letting myself get bored. Not an easy task since I have other things that need to be done and that I’d rather be doing. But a little experimenting as the year winds down sounds like a good plan. Who knows what ideas will come if I force myself to sit with a cup of coffee with no access to phones or internet or anything else for an hour.
How about you? Do you get ideas when you are tired or bored? Did you recognize it? Or know this? Am wondering if I am the only one who is just figuring this out.