Boredom Generates Inspiration

Kyle T Webster, photoshop brush master and children book author talked about his love of boredom at Adobe’s 99U 2019 conference in NYC.

Some of Kyle’s biggest career achievements can be traced back to being bored. Usually bored people means non-productive people. So I was skeptical when I first heard his boredom theory, but he went on to describe three of his crowning achievements all due to boredom. 

His talked touched on a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The best I could come up with was discontent. Kyle‘s premise is that our entire lives have been optimized and our tools have been designed to squeeze the maximum amount of productivity out of the day, or at least something that feels like productivity. 

Our news is written in bite-size chunks of 280 characters or top 10 lists that distills down entire topics and bodies of knowledge into 1,000 characters. When we have 15 seconds of downtime our phones come out and our heads go down—at stop lights, our heads our down. When waiting for our food to be delivered, our heads our down, illuminated by the glow of screens.

This isn’t necessarily bad. I love my iPhone, and I’m not giving it up anytime soon. However, Kyle is making the case for being cognizant of device use in contrast to boredom. Boredom is allowing your mind to wander. To connect dots in unusual ways. As Kyle put it, ‘Boredom is a blank canvas for the mind.’  Let the creativity bubble up through boredom.

Throughout your day, when you find yourself on your phone, either scrolling through Instagram or reading the latest news, ask yourself ‘Is this necessary?’. Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes you might be better off putting that phone away and relish in your own boredom.

Okay, so?  

Kyle’s message resonated with me instantly. I’ve been thinking about stepping away from technology and finding an industry a bit more tangible. I’m starting to find technology tedious. Companies investing huge amounts of cash into minor things like new ways to re-share a photo of a grumpy cat, or inventing new technology with little to no impact or market, other than it’s ‘cool’. 

But what I started to realize is that I’m essentially burned out. And Kyle paints a great picture of a small way to recharge and refill your creative tank—boredom. Boredom to let my mind wonder and get excited about different and unique ideas. Boredom to let new interests and ideas percolate in my brain, spur creativity, and help me recharge.