The day Phineas was wrong
Seven years ago, the world was introduced to a triangle-headed boy with a high-strung sister, a quiet step-brother and a non-typical pet with more going beyond than his seemingly-dull eyes let on. We met them early in their summer vacation, where Phineas was realizing that they needed to do things each day so they would be proud to tell their friends at school what they did on their vacation. As you know, they really have done a lot of amazing and fun things during a summer that doesn't seem to end.
It was on that day that he made a definitive statement: "boredom is something of up with which I will not put!" When he said it, he was right. But on that day, he was also wrong.
For many kids, summer vacation starts off as a celebration of being freed from school. Then it turns into a case of having too much freedom that they don't know what to do with themselves. Their parent suggest ideas or even have to push them into doing something.
Parents have the opposite problem. There are more demands on their time and responsibilities. A kid might not think beyond a day or week at a time. Adults are thinking about whether they'll have enough money to retire 30 years from now.
Their jobs are more demanding. Many companies have the expectation that their employees will be available 24 hours a day, regardless of if they're sick or on vacation.
And then there's what we do to ourselves, adults and kids alike.
We have a lot of technology we can carry with us and access to a lot of information and entertainment at any time. We fill in the tiny little gaps in between what we're doing so that our attention is almost always occupied.
This is where Phineas was right and yet wrong. Sometimes you should put up with being bored. In fact, you need to let yourself be bored so you have a chance to be creative.
I learned this first-hand a couple of weeks ago when I had to take a long trip one day. The radio in my truck broke a long time ago and I only got around to replacing it a few years ago. A few months later, that one got stolen and I haven't replaced it yet.
It was just me and the sound of the wind trying to get in through a seal that's wearing out on the door. It's not always there, but then it was for most of the trip. Four hours of driving and listening to that sound.
Most of the time, I don't mind. A radio helps on a trip but isn't necessary for me. On that day, I was thankful I didn't have one.
It was a beautiful day right around the official start of spring. I had to drive to a city on the coast. It gave me time to think.
I had let a co-worker read the Sunset story I wrote back in February and she pointed out two problems with it. One was minor whee it wasn't very clear what was happening at a specific point. The other was bigger, in that if you didn't read the couple of sentences in the preface, you had no idea where the story took place.
That trip, which could have been boring or drowned out by music became a chance to work out how to fix the story. Most of it was done in my mind, but occasionally I'd write down a short note for me to explore later. Just a few words as a reminder. I'll say right now that even though I was very careful, it was stupid to have done this. If you're driving a car, you need to be driving a car, not anything else. If the wind hadn't been so noisy, I could have used a voice recorder instead. Talking out loud is less of a distraction if you're driving.
Over the next week, I took a notepad with me to lunch and worked on the story. I'd get to a point where I'd think it was done and I'd force myself to put it aside. Give it a chance to see if anything new presented itself. I'm glad I did and kept it on paper instead of locking it in place in the computer because I found about two more things to add that really helped.
The world of my story is filled out a lot more now. It's almost version 2.0 of the story. It's much better and I'm happier with it. I like showing people this story. Before, I was pleased. Now I'm proud and happy with it.
All of what I just described is what others are calling "the Power of Boredom". It's allowing yourself time to think and not trying to fill every second of your day. You can't run a car at full throttle all the time. Running so many things on a computer that the processor is pegged at 100% means nothing else has a chance to run.
Phineas is right that it's good to keep occupied, but don't go overboard and prevent yourself from being bored. Occasionally you need it. When you exercise, you give yourself time to rest afterwards. You need to do that with your mind.
I see now that I do also, and I'm taking a good long look at whether I ever will put in a new radio. If it gets me results like this, I can do without one.
- Tips to become bored
- Put down the smartphone or get off the computer. Use that time to allow yourself to be bored.
- Consider using smartphone and computers the same as eating junk food: good once in a while, but not constantly.
- Want to get really creative? Deliberately do something boring first like reading the phone book.
- Realize that it's okay to take a day off. You may then find you're able to think of great things to do.
- Getting out of being bored
- If you're bored and you really can't think of anything to do, go exploring around town and see what landmarks, parks and other points of interest are there that you never knew.
- Parents: if your kids say, "I'm bored", don't always hand them the Windex and a cleaning rag. Do that too many times and it may become "If I say I'm bored, I'll be punished with chores". Consider taking a break yourself and go do something with your kids.
- If you find yourself being bored frequently, you might want to see your doctor. It could be a little bit of depression hiding as boredom.
- Watching TV and movies when you're bored doesn't help as much as you think. Exercise is better and better for you.
- Websites on the Power of Boredom