The Link Between Boredom and Creativity

This article actually got started back in May with a TrueEnds blog post about The Middle-School Aged C.S. Lewis’ Daily Schedule which states that Lewis spent not less than two hours per day walking in the park just thinking.  This aligned with some things I had heard recently, about the Bronte sisters walking around on the moor and Tennessee Williams walking around New Orleans.  Walking around and thinking was part of creating artwork.

But walking could be seen as a greater sign of having a lot of free time on one’s hands … in short, what we call boredom.

I began to see articles about the phenomenon of boredom driving creativity or achievement.  This seems like a subject for extended study, but I keep losing track of the articles I read and not being able to remember the right keywords to retrieve them.  So, I decided to start a log of all such “Bordom drives creativity” articles and post them here.

And before I posted them, I reasoned, I’d better re-read them, because I needed to make sure they were interesting and did not repeat each other.

(reading all the articles … )

It was about the time that I got to Mark McGinness’ article that I began to think about turning off the internet for most of the day and just having it on from, say, 5 to 7 p.m. Of course, planning such a serious offensive against the teenagers in the house when I have just managed to get them to turn in cell phones at 10:30 at night is daunting.  But after reading the articles I’m convinced:  there is a point at which unrestricted technology becomes … the enemy of all that is creative, and that’s not all.

More on this topic later.  Below I have listed the articles and blogs.


Bored and Brilliant website


Offers a set of tech-free challenges.  Day one challenge:  take a ride or drive and put that cell phone away.  For the whole drive.

You’re at your most creative when you’re bored via  @CatMoreWrites


Tolkien, Garcia-Marquez, and C.S. Lewis began great works while bored … a reflection on the creative life and the need for boredom.
The Scientific Link between Boredom and Creativity  via @JordanRosenfeld A blogger and freelance writer talks about the costs of smartphone addiction for the worker in the creative fields.
Creative Benefits of Boredom via @HarvardBiz Reflection on how boredom at sales meetings drove salesmen to late night dinners full of solutions for problems … and then goes over two research studies which show that stone-cold boredom improves both convergent and divergent problem solving skills.
 Boredom Stimulates Creativity via @YourStoryCo Goes over the same research as Harvard Business review, but then talks about specific creatives and their lives:  Maya Angelou worked as a street car conductor, Charles Bukowski at “soul-suckingly” boring  jobs, before breaking out as artists.
 How Kids Can Benefit from Boredom via @ConversationUS and @tbelton1 Links current problems with child creativity to earlier concerns about the effects of television watching.  Gives recommendations on how to parent once you’ve taken away the digital devices and kids say, once again “I’m bored.”
 Why Boredom is good for your creativity via @99u and @MarkMcGuinness Gives specific steps to unplug from the grid and create creativity with “put your butt in the chair” seriousness.
 A link between boredom and creativity via digital humanities blog Blog post talks how reading allows us to maintain our “dense cultural heritage,” and the difference between writing digitally and writing on paper, types of creative output.
7 creative writers who had boring day jobs via @CreativeLive Seven well-known writers who seem to have benefitted from boring day jobs.
 Back to walking for thinking inspiration:  A passage from Agatha Christie’s “Taken at the flood,” (1948) in which a character, perplexed, seeks inspiration to solve her money and personal problems:

“She wanted to get out of Warmsly Vale, up onto the hills and open spaces.  Setting out at a brisk pace she soon felt better.  She would go for a good tramp of six or seven miles–and really think things out.  Always, all her life, she had been a resolute clear headed person … ” … pg. 93.


9 thoughts on “The Link Between Boredom and Creativity”

      1. Welcome! .. I’m interested to look at some of the samples and read what you wrote properly, just haven’t had time yet;

        One Q, what’s “creativity”?

        1. Creativity is the ability to create, such as design things (buildings, computer programs) write articles, paint pictures, or even build a shed in the backyard. The idea is that when people are constantly on-line, they are not thinking of things to do to make life better.

          1. Hmmm. So how do we separate things which are creative and things which are not? This seems under-defined; not such a clear description of the thing, imho

          2. — but okay, that’s a “mathematical” come back … (precise language, “well-defined” concepts … often takes it a notch too far … 🙂

          3. Hey, minor “add”, but check out a minute or two of this if you like, esp start about 03:30

            RE creativity and procrastination (and different types of people)


            Key word: “incubate”

            “Procrastination gives you time to think about … divergent ideas … to think in nonlinear ways … to make unexpected ways …”

            … that’s about 05:00 to 05:30

  1. Without fail, my best ideas come in the shower. The moment I (literally) shed all of the trappings of the modern world and become “mindlessly” distracted, my mind is actually freed and the muses visit. Now I have a pad and pen in the bathroom drawer so I can jot down my brilliant ideas before they gone. Thank you for this article and all the great resources!

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