The Cure for Creative Constipation

What can you do when ideas just won’t come?

Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash

As a child, I had a favourite phrase that drove my parents mad but led to some wonderful memories.

“I’m bored.”

I remember being bored a lot of the time (this was before you could have your own personal jester in your pocket, ready to keep you amused 24/7).

But it was wonderful, because when the mind is stifled of stimulation something amazing happens — it creates its own entertainment.

I’d create a superhero lair under the weeping willow, a theatre from the under-house storage space or a game of hunt the pegs in the flowerbeds.

Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.

Walter Benjamin

Advice From a Master Procrastinator

One of my favourite authors is Neil Gaiman.

He makes being bored an important part of his writing routine.

“You can sit here and write, or you can sit here and do nothing. But you can’t sit here and do anything else.”

Neil Gaiman

The genius of this is that the brain abhors a vacuum. If you don’t give it stimulation then it will create something — anything — to fill the gap.

It won’t always be amazing. You might not understand what you are getting, like tuning a radio into a foreign station. But something will come.

And once you have something, then it can be studied, turned around in your mind, cogitated over and written down.

Enforced Boredom

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”

Christopher Robin, in Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

So how can you ensure that you are bored on a daily basis?

1. Ditch the Devices

It is certainly harder than when I was a child to be bored. Unless you switch off from phones and other screens, you are letting them ruin your chances of ever experiencing the benefits of boredom.

2. Do boring things

I tell me husband off for emptying the dishwasher (he tells me off for loading it in the wrong way, but that’s another story). Why don’t I want him to unload it?

Because I save it for when I need inspiration.

If my writing isn’t going well, then I know that unloading the dishwasher is just boring enough to get the ideas flowing.

Other great activities for me are pegging out the washing, going for a walk or simply sitting in the sunshine with my eyes shut.

My husband likes swimming laps, that’s his zone-out space.

3. Failing at Meditation

If I’m successful at meditation then I’m relaxed, and tranquil, and letting thoughts come and go, without any attachment. This is what I’m aiming for when I meditate.

When it doesn’t work, my mind keeps following my thoughts and maybe I don’t notice.

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, those thoughts are not

What am I going to have for dinner? or Did I give the dog his tablets today?

but stray into the land of imagination and shiny new ideas.

4. Forced Frustration

I have friends who are very musically talented. When I go along to hear them play in an orchestra, no matter how much I might want to resist it, I am soon drifting in my thoughts, being creative.

There is something about being forced to sit for a prolonged period and appear to be interested.

For Neil Gaiman, it is bad middle school drama:

Where do you come up with your best ideas?
Watching bad middle school drama. You cannot leave. You cannot even look bored. So you go deep inside your head…​

5. Unchanging Images

Many moons ago I was a maths teacher. If a child was staring out the window you knew they were no longer in school and were off on another planet, or deep under the sea, or exploring the jungle.

Make yourself look at the same thing for a while and maybe you’ll go on adventures of your own.

You might also get the same from an unchanging sound. I find the clickety-clack of the railway track can launch me into a creative space when I’m on a train.

Are you bored already?

I hope that you are.

How did you do it?

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