Want to be less boring? Be more bored

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

You've got a presentation to write. So you research. You read the internet. But maybe you shouldn't. Maybe you should do nothing at all. Here's how getting bored will make you more interesting.

First of all, what do I mean by 'bored'? I'm not talking about having a lack of interest in what you're doing.

I'm talking about an intentional lack of activity, downing your tools, and switching off. And giving space to your curious, wandering mind.

I'm talking about being bored by cliché, by the obvious. I'm talking about being fascinated by the new things your own thoughts might create.

Idleness allows you to turn a situation from boredom to pleasure – Tom Hodgkinson, author of How to Be Idle

Why memory loss can be great

I recently overindulged on the sherry. So much so, that I couldn't remember – and still can't – how or when I got home. My memory is a complete blank.

But let's say I could remember, and you asked me to describe other ways I might have gotten home. I'd probably give you slight variations on the facts. Dull.

Robbed of recall, here's what happened. A full 2 days later, I woke breathless from a nightmare at 5am, shaken by a terrifying version of events my unconscious had created. It was vivid, and interesting.

When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Can you describe the types of plant?

Here's a practical, waking example. Imagine I asked you to give a presentation explaining the types of plant.

You google 'types of plant'. You find information about creepers and mosses and evergreens. You find 7 or 8 different webpages that say the same things, about the same plants.

But if you took some quiet time, you might stumble upon...

the story of a spy... hiding in a bush... outside an industrial machinery hire centre... missing an opportunity to pin something incriminating on the manager... distracted by thoughts of the amazing snooker shot he played last night.

Which presentation would you rather give, or listen to?

Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other – Arthur Schopenhauer

Stop looking at the obvious for inspiration

If you want to be interesting, you have to be different. And the best way to be different is to switch off from what's been done before.

Be bored by it. Remove all stimuli. Give total control over your faculties to a single idea or problem. Just think.

Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity – Robert M. Pirsig

I wouldn't rely on night terrors for your presentation material. Nor would I recommend drunken stupors and paranoia as ways to coax creativity.

Boredom, after all, is a form of criticism – Wendell Phillips

Creativity isn't googling. It's slipping your mind's feet into comfy shoes, taking a quiet stroll through a meadow of ideas, observing the flowers of potential, and plucking the sweetest one to display on your mantelpiece.

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