When I was in Dublin I took one of the New Europe free walking tours. One point our guide lamented was that when Ireland was a poor country that was when great literature and art flowed out to the world. Since the new millennium, the average wealth has increased, and the only notable thing to come from Ireland is Jedward; which is nothing to boast about.
Obviously this is quite a generalization but it does highlight one important thing. It is very difficult to create if your life is filled with distractions. The height of my composing happened while I was backpacking in Europe. I would sit for hours at train or bus stations waiting to move on to my next adventure. Then I would be twiddling my thumbs, watching the scenery fly by as I was transported to my next destination. I had an ancient iPhone with me that had 1 game, it was worth about 2 minutes of entertainment, and never any data, an old, creased book that I had found at a secondhand bookstore but had read several times already and nothing else to do. So lost in my own thoughts, staring out of the window of the train, I would try to come up with note combinations that interested me.
I’d be thinking about some adventure that I’d had or possibly was going to still have and I’d use that imagery to create a tune. It was pretty easy and a great way to pass the time. When something stuck I’d either scribble it down on roughly drawn scores or else record it to transcribe later.
I also kept a notebook to jot down story or play ideas. Several of the ideas have borne fruit but a lot of them now sit gathering dust wherever I’ve happened to have forgotten that notebook. I just don’t have hours at a time any more to sit and write and think and get lost in my daydreams.
I do try to create those times of boredom again. It is difficult; having the whole internet at my fingertips and more distractions than a puppy in a ball-pen. I hated being bored as a kid. It often got me into trouble because I had to be doing something. It is funny that now as an adult I almost crave boredom so that I can just let my mind wander.
Creativity, in my opinion, is filling up an empty space. If there is no empty space there is nothing that can fill it. Boredom is my empty space. I’m going to keep trying to put away my phone, close my laptop and create! Hopefully I will be able to fill another book with tunes.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to wait for a muse or moment of inspiration to create. Writing tunes and plays and stories takes dedicated, hard work, but that is a blog post for another time! Until then I hope you can find the freedom to create your art.
If you have any other thoughts on boredom and creativity feel free to share them in the comments!