I've just been working as a choreographer on an opera production for 6 weeks and returned back home to Stockholm this week. During my one and a half month away most of my other projects have been pretty much on hold and I've been waiting with excitement to get back to them.
The day after I got back home I sat down to make a to-do-list. On my list I put some knitwear orders I had to start working on, my idea for an upcoming blog post and the planning of another dance production for later in the Autumn. Not long until I noticed that my eyes kept drifting off to the nearby couch and that my brain couldn't really focus on the task at hand.
I promptly told myself that I should get into a productive mode after having been gone for so long and not let my mind wander off. I've listened to enough of podcasts about successful people to know that you have to “show up every day” if you want to reach your goals so I was determined to not get distracted. After all, the opera premier had been a success and even though it's always mentally stressful to finish a production, I thought surely I should have the energy to get going on some new projects.
I got my laptop out and started working. But, my mind felt sticky and my thoughts were a mess. Our cat eating Nutella from the nearby plate and insisting on using the laptop keypad as a private lane didn't help. Suddenly the thing I had looked forward to doing didn't feel at all as enjoyable as I had imagined, instead it started to feel like a tiresome and quite honestly frustrating chore.
That's when I realized that wait a minute, I've been here before. This scenario when the inner voice in my mind starts using the word “should” and sucks all the creativity out of me. In this state I know I won't make any progress or get any meaningful work done. When my mind fills up of “shoulds” the space for original thinking shrinks substantially.
There was an article a few years back in a Finnish newspaper that talked about the importance of having time to do nothing. The minds unconscious layers need time to process information when you are trying to solve a problem or come up with new innovations. In the same that way you can't force yourself to sleep you can't hurry up the brains deep thought processes. Doing nothing is pretty much the worst thing imaginable for someone as hyperactive as me, but that's exactly why it's so essential.
This in turn leads me to think about the much underestimated value of being bored. My Mother always talks about the importance of experiencing boredom from time to time. She spent all her childhood summers out in the archipelago feeling pretty lonely because there were no families with kids around. That must have sucked at the time but it did make her develop a very vivid imagination, one that she now uses in her profession as a writer. Without all that time spent alone she wouldn't have had to fill up the days with her own stories, and maybe wouldn't have allowed for her to develop her story telling abilities.
In the world we live in today boredom is highly undervalued. With so much entertainment just a click away no one ever has to feel bored, but I think that's a pity. A big inhibitor for doing nothing is probably this pressure or expectation that we should use every minute to try and reach our next goal and work hard at realizing our dreams.
While I applaud hard work and ambition, I don't see the value in keeping busy just because the world shouts at us that that's the way efficiency looks like. Plus, now I have research to back it up. If I need to engage in the noble act of staring at the walls and procrastinate to reach my own creative potential I will do so.
When I allow myself to take it a bit easy I usually end up getting a whole bunch of new ideas that just seem to pop up out of nowhere. We are so used to tackle problems from an analytical standpoint and trying to use rationality to develop new ideas that the notion of doing just the opposite feels quite revolutionary. Drinking more tea is what might save us after all.