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It’s summertime! Along with the heat and the humidity, the wasps and the lightning bugs, summer comes with the annual cry from every kid stuck at home for two months…“I’m bored!” A parent can counter this claim of “There’s nothing to do!” with suggestions about cleaning rooms and working on summer math packets, but this response is mostly met with eye rolls at best, if not exposed contempt.


As a fairly productive adult, I don’t really know what boredom is anymore. Granted, I’m sure I said the same thing every summer to my mom growing up, but now I fill my days with getting things done. Although that feels pretty terrific to a task-oriented person like me, it is possible that all of those checkmarks on my extensive to-do lists may be getting in the way of my creativity. Agatha Christie, one of my favorite authors, once said, “There’s nothing like boredom to make you write. By the time I was 16 or 17, I’d written quite a number of short stories and one long dreary novel.” She said that her imagination had been strengthened because she had been forced to entertain herself as a child.


Another great author, Neil Gaiman, said, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.” That sounds about right! When I wrote the first book in my middle grade fiction series, the opening scene came straight from a moment of daydreaming. I was on our front porch, looking at the overgrown field in front of our house, and my imagination sparked an entire novel from what I thought I saw moving in the tall grass.


According to the Boredom Lab at York University in Canada—a real thing, apparently—researchers study this very connection between boredom and creativity. John Eastwood, a psychologist at the lab, explained it this way: “When we’re bored, there are two key things happening in our mind. The first thing is what I would call a ‘desire bind’. That’s when someone is kind of stuck because they desperately want to do something but they don’t want to do anything that’s on offer. Secondly, when you’re bored, your mental capacity is lying fallow. We’re itching to engage our mind. These are the two core things that are what it means to feel bored.” Dr. Eastwood went on to say, “Boredom triggers mind-wandering, and then mind wandering leads to creativity.” Beautiful art has to start with a blank slate!


Sometimes boredom seems like the enemy, but it may actually be the antidote to our often ridiculously busy lifestyles. And if writing fiction isn’t necessarily your thing, consider all the other benefits to being bored. For instance, you could slow down enough to have an authentic conversation with a bored employee. You could let your mind wander—screen free—until you have someone pop into your head who needs your prayer and encouragement.


Remember these words from two wise men of the past: “There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” – G.K. Chesterton. “Only those who want everything done for them are bored.” – Billy Graham




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