Thursday, February 21, 2013
The "Creative Pause"
This past Christmas Eve I had a few errands to do during the day: buy a baguette for the next morning, flowers for the hostess that evening, a book for my husband. But everywhere I went, the lines at the cash were huge, sometimes trailing outside the door. When my turn came to be served at the bakery counter, there were no more baguettes. I left the store frustrated and agitated. The bookstore was no better; the line was about twenty minutes long. Same at the flower shop. The holiday bustle, which I usually enjoy, exasperated me. Walking down the street in search of another bakery, I came across a nail salon, the only establishment not crammed with people. So I went in and had a pedicure – oh, such peace, such joy, such a pleasant interlude! However, by the time I was done, I had to rush home, empty-handed and late, to get ready for the festivities. No time to shower, iron my dress, or tidy up. I was a madwoman, trying to get myself and the family ready and on the road.
And of course, we were late.
What I’ve learned from this reflection is not so much a lesson on time management and patience, but a lesson about boredom. I need to fill every moment with a constructive activity, something that makes me feel I’m using time, one of our most precious commodities, efficiently. “Only boring people get bored,” the saying goes.
The other day I heard about a study revealing that “boring and bored” are not bad words, that when our minds are inactive is when our creativity can flourish. The mind needs to settle down and be still in order to absorb ideas and allow for our imagination to work. This can happen while waiting your turn in a line, taking a shower, or even brushing your teeth. It’s called “the creative pause.” It seems I’m not alone in this “do anything to keep from being bored” mindset. Electronic gadgets are the best boredom fighters ever invented and they are ubiquitous: joggers listening to iPods, pedestrians talking on their cell phones, and until recently, drivers texting on the road.
Not long ago, I asked my doctor if there is a motion-sickness drug that would prevent me from feeling queasy while reading on the subway. She smiled and said, “How about putting your book down, closing your eyes, or watching the people instead?” That would be so boring, I thought at the time.
Perhaps she and those boredom studies are right. Maybe we all need to give ourselves permission to give our minds a break. If I’d had a little more patience and was less worried about being bored, I’d have completed my tasks on Christmas Eve, been less frazzled getting ready, and not been late for the festivities. And maybe I’d have given my head a creative break. But then, I wouldn’t have had nice toenails.