Sophia Amoruso (Founder of NastyGal, a popular fast fashion retailer) recently said in an interview: If you’re the person who stops and says, ‘I made it,’ the whole world is going to blow by you by the time you’ve finished saying that.
What she means, is that, it’s wonderful (and important) to celebrate your victories in life, but you must also remember to keep moving. To be truly extraordinary, one must continue working, even when it seems like your last victory was just won. Otherwise, not only will the rest of the world quickly leave you behind, but your own mind will begin to atrophy like any unused muscle. This idea holds true both in the world of fast-fashion and any other creativity-driven industry.
But what if the whole idea of “keeping moving” could also go hand in hand with staying absolutely still?
Sometimes I feel like my body and mind are overwhelmed with passion. I have one million thoughts simultaneously colliding, and sifting through the din can get messy. So instead, I just ignore all of them. I ignore them with Netflix and trips to the bar with friends and music and theater shows and podcasts and whatever else. But underneath there’s this itchiness telling me to go do something, to go make something, to go create an experience rather than witness someone else’s.
In those moments, that’s when I know I need to shift my focus. I need to make boredom my goal — because once I’m bored, like really bored, I have no choice but to start sifting through all of my ideas.
To force myself into the state of boredom that precedes passionate, creative breakthroughs, I schedule time into the week to just do nothing. That’s right folks, my creative process is to do nothing. Some people swear by running, throwing a ball against a wall, drinking, smoking, taking a shower … but seriously, I do nothing. I sit. And I stare into space. I just let my brain run wild. Sooner or later, some thoughts start getting louder than others.
If I’m writing a song, I sit in front of a piece of paper and wait for things to become clear. If I’m designing something I sit in front of my laptop with the Wifi turned off. If I’m trying to figure out what my next passion project should be, I lay down and stare at the ceiling until things make sense. Yes, it’s super boring, but that’s exactly why it works. Once you get through the agonizing part where you desperately wish you had something to occupy your mind, you eventually remember to listen to the things that are bothering you. You start thinking about your dreams and aspirations. The emotions you’ve encountered throughout the day. The sentences that have impacted you and the sights that were memorable. You think about that application you used today that had a design flaw that got on your nerves – could you make it better? Creativity and experiences are driven by impactful memories and emotions. Once you start to address them, ideas start to fall into place.
If you can manage to work a whole lot of nothing into your daily life, you can eventually make something really great. Your nothings will turn into somethings and sometimes those somethings will turn into victories. Then you’ll celebrate them for a moment and return back to nothing. The whole pattern may sound a bit depressing on paper, but in reality, it’s exciting. Watching something grow from an idea to something tangible, being able to draw something out of your mind and conjure it in the real world is a remarkable process to behold. It’s so remarkable, that you’ll start to embrace being bored on the regular — because you know the possibilities.
Let’s stop shaming people for saying “I’m bored” and then pointing them to the endless things around them that could occupy their time. Instead, let’s embrace boredom. For example, if a kid comes to you and whines about boredom, don’t suggest an activity for them. Let them sit and think. You’d be surprised what games, inventions, drawings, and imaginary worlds they can come up with — and you have the capability to create just as much.