The Short Version
If you’re a writer, you probably realize that your best ideas pop up during unstructured time, when your mind wanders. In Bored and Brilliant, Manoush Zomorodi offers a seven-day challenge to detach yourself from your devices, so that you can experience boredom and its companion, creativity. Read the book and take the challenge – it may inspire you to make room for creative mind wandering in your life.
This is yet another in a series of reviews of Books for Writers – books that are not, ostensibly, about writing, yet offer important insights into the practice or craft.
The Long Version
Dang, I need more boredom in my life.
That’s what I came away with after reading Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi. She sold me with the subtitle: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.
I’m a big fan of the wandering mind. In The Writer’s Process, I wrote about the importance of finding periods of open attention, when your Muse can make itself heard, accessing brain cycles for nonlinear thought. That open attention happens when we have nothing else going on – in other words, when we risk being bored.
As Zomorodi points out in her book, we rarely let ourselves get bored anymore. Our time for open attention is, for the most part, consumed by technology. Instead of allowing ourselves to space out at the gym, we listen to podcasts. (Guilty!) Instead of waiting quietly for the dentist, we check our phones. In the car, on the plane, waiting in line … you get the idea.
Why does this matter? Because it’s in those unoccupied spaces that we hear our inner thoughts and discover new ideas. Zomorodi writes, “Boredom is the gateway to mind-wandering, which helps our brains create those new connections that can solve anything from planning dinner to a breakthrough in combating global warming.”
Manoush Zomorodi is the host of the WNYC’s podcast Note to Self. In 2015, she crafted a seven-day Bored and Brilliant Project. Each day, listeners were challenged to detach from technology and embrace boredom. More than 20,000 people took the challenge. For many listeners, the results were transformative. She writes about the project, and repeats the challenges, in this book.
Let’s be clear – these aren’t Herculean tasks. She’s not suggesting a fifteen-day digital detox. One challenge is simply to observe yourself using your devices. Another is keeping your devices out of reach while you are in motion. Another: a day without taking a picture. Easy enough, right?
I started out pretty smug, as I have tried to lessen my dependence on my phone. Still, on day one, I realized that I check email WAYYYY too often. Even if some days are easy, others may surprise you.
Why This Matters
For writers, creating time for your mind to wander feeds your Muse, your creativity. Yet the payoff extends beyond writing. Reclaiming a little boredom or time off infuses a certain sense of slowness in our days, opens up possibilities for noticing things. As Zomorodi writes,
“We crave reflective time; we seek balance; we want a life full of joy and curiosity.”
Indeed. Read the book, take the challenge. The next time you feel slightly bored, instead of reaching for your phone, you may start smiling.
Other “Books for Writers” Reviews
How We Talk by N.J. Enfield
When by Daniel Pink
How We Learn by Benedict Carey
Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray