About boredom

07 May 2018

This is a non-technical post where the author rambles about boredom, arguing that there is never a reason to indulge in boredom (although no value judgement for boredom is put forward). In summary, if most of our time is spent either engaging with someone else and if the exercise of creativity is essentially a way to engage with someone else, then boredom can in all cases be avoided by doing something that requires creativity.

Being in good company

For the purposes of this post, boredom is the state we find ourselves in when, after exhausting all diversions we can think of, we fall into a state of sloth and idleness. We are all familiar with the feeling. Whether or not being in this state is a bad thing is outside the scope of this post.

We spent most of our lives engaged with other people. We freely associate with each other over common interests, we engage into work contracts with each other, one of the parties produces something of worth to the other and so does the other in turn, or otherwise some form of compensation is produced. We sometimes engage with each other following norms and customs even when we don’t want to. We are generally quite social.

We also engage with each other in non-direct manners: we read books, blog posts, and we listen to music, and we watch movies, and use software. In all these cases we consume something someone else made for us. In turn, we produce ways for others to engage with us passively the other way around: we write books, blog posts, make music, movies and build software.


Generally we become bored when we exhaust all stimulating sources of passive engagement we consume. We try them out and one by one they let us down in some way, perhaps all we really want to for the next movie to come out in theaters, but since it isn’t out yet and we don’t really want to do anything else we become bored.

Assuming this more often than not occurs when when we exhausted ways to engage with others passively, but haven’t tried making something for others to engage with us (the other way around) the state of boredom can be avoided by trying out the latter. The active exercise of creativity normally presents challenges that are not found with passive engagements: finding a suitable subject, setting constraints and success criteria. Indeed we are sometimes put off not by solving these challenges but by the difficulty of achieving even the minimum success criterion. Success criteria are important: without artificial constraints the exercise of creativity can become another way to indulge in boredom. For example, writing a technical blog post requires spending a bit of time researching, a bit of time writing and the overhead of polishing and publishing the post. Something similar likely occurs for people who, as another example, paint or draw.

If the purpose of the exercise is to produce something for others to engage in, then it has to be good enough by the author’s standards. And sometimes even when these are minimal, discouragement from the fear of failure can occur, or discovering the argument originally conceived is found lacking when put on paper. A simple way to address these concerns is simply confidence. Being aware of the potential value someone else may find in your work, believing there is some potential and that this is reason enough to put in the required effort.


This is largely a self-addressed post from the author. In order to avoid boredom once passive sources of engagement with others have been exhausted, simply try to exercise creativity and produce something worthwhile for others to consume. Having confidence must suffice against the fear that whatever is produced may not be good enough for others.