Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Art of Boredom.

When I was a kid complaining of boredom during those long lonely summer days before drivers licenses and boyfriends, my mother would say “Honey, intelligent people are never bored.” Even then—bitter from the lack of sympathy--I knew she was right.

To this day, that simple truth resonates with me during my long lonely days of solitude. Now that I work from home as a full time artist I don’t have a boss to hand me work. I don’t have focus groups to keep me on track, no co-workers to fill the social void and the most foreign, I don’t even have a reason to get dressed for the day. I--like one in six people my age--don’t work for anyone. This recession has hit everyone hard. Thankfully I have a way of supporting myself. Art has given me a means to an end. I’m probably one of the luckiest people out there. I call all the shots and I can call them while in my pj’s after I roll out of bed around noon.

Most people stare at me with jealous awe when I tell them about my typical day. While more practical people instantly say, “I could never do that! I wouldn’t get anything done.” And they are right. It takes a certain kind of personality to be able to work for yourself. You’ve got to have an inner drive that never shuts up and you have to have a desire to create, produce, market and grow. Some days I don’t feel any of those things. Some days I just want to sip my coffee and think about all the other things I could be doing, rather than doing nothing at all. And then I start to feel sad about my lack of production, which turns into melancholy, and by the time I’ve poured myself my 3rd cup of 2pm coffee the boredom and depression sets it. Here I am. 28, in my pj’s while the rest of the productive world is working making money.

“Honey, intelligent people are never bored.”

The message hits my numb brain then slowly starts to sink in. My brain starts turning, my adrenaline squirts a little creative juice into my bloodstream and I begin. I start with something fun, painting bamboo cloth napkins. I’ll finish, photograph and post them for sale. Two days later they sell and I’ll have made $60. Inspired from having created something beautiful and profitable I’ll move to something more intense, a canvas painting or a new line of dinnerware. It’s addictive, creating that is. Once you’ve started—it’s nearly impossible to shut it off. The next time I look at the clock, it’s 10pm, I’m starving and thirsty for wine. I have an entire days worth of work to show for myself and it feels so good. So rewarding. I’m excited for tomorrow and I feel good about myself. So the next time you feel stagnant or bored. Remember my mother’s words. “Honey, intelligent people are never bored.” Get off your ass and do something. You can even do it in your pajamas.


  1. My mom said the same thing!!!

  2. i always said i was bored too...i realize now that boredom really means you dont want to do anything and its okay not to always be doing!
    i too am an artist and before that worked for myself, i can't imagine having to be stuck somewhere all day! i barely have time as it is :) you are lucky that you are making it! its tough out there and all my gallery sales have stopped just when i was getting momentum it all disappeared. found you on etsy and wanted to check your blog out. good stuff :)

  3. Mary,

    This post resonates. It really, really resonates. I work from home too– as a freelance writer. The intense bursts of creativity and the depressing, often debilitating lulls happen to me too.

    I've been waiting to read something like this from someone else who works from home. It makes me feel worlds better knowing I'm not the only self-employed creative-type who gets depressed over not being productive.

    For awhile I thought something was seriously wrong. It wasn't until I started tracking my bad days that I figured out procrastination and everyday distractions triggered my sad/guilty episodes.

    It does take a special kind of self-discipline to work from home. It's a freakin' joy, but it can also be a freakin' burden. Although I feel privileged to earn a living from my home office, I've had to really work on staying focused and separating work from home and home from work.

    I've often wondered how other people feel about working from home. In theory it sounds wonderful ... and it IS wonderful, but it's just as daunting and just as challenging as working in a high-rise from 9 to 5.

    I'm rarely bored because I always find something else to do or create that keeps me from working on a paying assignment. Why do I do this?! I always write my best creative non-paying stuff when I've got three assignments due for the paper. Why do I do this?!

    I guess what I'm saying is thanks for the post. And thank god I'm not the only one who suffers from the mid-afternoon blues in her PJ pants, while sipping coffee "at work."

    PS. Do you miss having coworkers? I do. Although, I've found that my blog friends have become surrogate coworkers in a way.

  4. Heidi I live for your comments. I seriously feel like we are kindred spirits. Yes, it sounds kinda creepy saying it in a blog comment forum. No--it actually is a creepy, but we'll move past that. I LOVE your tent diaries. Brilliant. I'd actually love to move to Asheville one day soon, and I've certainly spent many a summer all over TN, all the while jamming to ani on my drives and hikes. You're a fantastic writer and brave in more ways than just camping solo.


Thanks so much for your comment.