When you first enter the world of photography, there’s often that creative, fiery gust of excitement that comes with the passion for taking pictures. You often want to go out and take amazing shots of just about everything. Once carrying the camera and going out to photograph becomes a daily routine, boredom may set in.
Just What Is Boredom?
You know you’re bored when you don’t see that creative flow you once had in your system anymore. You could ask yourself, “When was the last time I had a good idea?” Unfortunately, the answer is never readily available.
Boredom is that lack of engaging stimuli that occurs when there is nothing around us that is exciting enough. It happens to everyone at some point in the course of their work, studies or career.
Which begs the question, how do you reignite that spark when you feel you’ve lost it?
First, you’ll need to understand what boredom is so you can recognize it and deal with it more effectively and creatively.
Disclaimer: In this article, we focus on the first part; covering the meaning of boredom and the reasons why you need to embrace it as a photographer. The second part of this article covers tips on what to do when you’re bored with photography.
How you look at an issue has a lot of impact on the way you choose to address it. For a photographer, this understanding is essential when it comes to boredom. In his book, The Power of Boredom, philosopher Mark Hawkins provides a conception of boredom that, if well understood, could significantly improve the way they deal with it.
Drawing from philosophy and psychology, Mark shows that it helps to conceptualize boredom as space. And on this space are a pure creative potential that is necessary for self-transformation and improvement of one’s life.
The thing is, while many of us choose to equate space to emptiness, that viewpoint is not accurate. Space, in reality, is so full of potential.
When something is empty, like a piece of uncultivated land, it has limitless potential. There are endless possibilities with regards to what you can do with it. It is upon you to decide what to do with all that space.
An empty room, in essence, is a room full of space, so you can make it into anything you want.
Boredom is practically the same. It’s the most powerful kind of space because it has unlimited room for every possible thought and emotion. And as you may know, thoughts and emotions are what fuel creativity.
It is when you are bored that your mind naturally begins to look for something new if you allow it. A bored mind yearns for something exciting when what is available is not stimulating enough.
If you open your eyes to this perspective, you begin to realize just how vital boredom is at incentivizing creativity.
Often, our busyness prevents us from taking the time to examine the world around us with an open mind. As such, we forget to be inquisitive, and we end up letting things be just the way they are.
Boredom provides that space to examine our lives and the world around us. Read along for more details on why it’s essential for us photographers to embrace boredom.
1. Boredom Helps Us Become More Productive
Andreas Elpidorou, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Louisville, explains that boredom allows us to see the important aspects of our work and life, which could eventually drive us to become more productive.
Following years of research on boredom, Elpidorou deduces that boredom helps to restore the perception that our work or related activities are meaningful. He believes that boredom serves as a regulatory state with the potential to motivate us to complete projects.
When you’re always busy working or jumping from one activity to the next, you become so distracted that it blurs your vision. You may end up doing the same things the same way over and over again. While in this state of mind, you may not realize how important your job is to you or the people around you. You might also not realize what you need to do to be better at your job.
When you become bored, however, it serves as a turning point where you realize the apparent absence of mentally and emotionally rewarding experiences. Boredom, therefore, serves as a warning that there’s something you are not doing right. Boredom pushes you to switch goals so that you can begin again to find meaning in what you are doing.
Notice that without boredom, you would easily remain trapped in unfulfilling circumstances and miss out on opportunities that are necessary for increasing your productivity.
Unfortunately, this happens more often than we realize. When starting on a career as a photographer, for instance, you’re generally eager to learn all that it entails. Years down the line, you may find yourself feeling that there’s nothing else left to learn anymore. And this mindset can severely hamper growth.
That’s what boredom helps resolve. It puts you in a state of thinking things more deeply, allowing you to notice areas that could use some adjustment, helping you upscale your productivity.
2. Boredom Allows for Creative Ideas to Emerge
Have you ever seen a kid come up with some strange game that you have never seen before? Often, this happens after they have been without something to do for some time. And if you take a closer look, you cannot help but notice how fun and creative they are too.
This illustrates quite a bit about what happens when we are bored. The mind springs into a state of creativity where it seeks to find something to do. Let’s dive into a bit of detail.
Typically, creativity does not just surface because you want it to. Concentrating intensely on finding a creative solution to a problem only serves to court frustration.
However, when you allow your mind to hoover freely away from the actual problem, slowly, sometimes remotely; unique ideas start to trickle in. And before you realize it, the solution you’re looking for is right there before your eyes.
This is because thinking directly about a problem allows you to see only a limited view of it. Thinking freely, on the other hand, creates room for a broader perspective.
Creativity is an unconscious process, which is why it does not come when you try to push it. But when you are bored, you often find yourself doing nothing, with your unconscious thought process fully engaged. Your head gets a lot of space, and new, creative ideas are happy to flow in and fill that space.
While bored, the ideas that trickle into your mind have the space to shape up and grow. In other words, the bored, unconscious mind is a perfect incubator for new ideas that can lead to unimaginable creative breakthroughs.
3. Boredom Provides the Time to Pause and Reflect
When bored, you are usually not consciously engaged in much of an activity. You could take a casual walk in the yard, sit on a bench and just pass the time. This break from the daily hassles that characterize our typical workday can help you ward off or treat burnout.
Even without noticing it, boredom provides the time we need to be able to look at life more holistically. Eventually, we can see more clearly the things that make our lives complete, such as the balance between work and rest. And with that, we can appreciate them again.
Once your mind realizes the bigger picture of life by viewing it through this lens, you naturally find yourself feeling better, with a solid sense of pleasure.
Notice that today, it’s all too easy to let work-related activities take over our lives so that our perspective about life becomes blurry. We frequently overwork ourselves or constantly push ourselves in search of something new to do as artists, and get burnt out.
While we bury ourselves in an activity like that, we don’t usually realize that we need to have a break from everything to be able to find pleasure in our lives. Boredom comes in to provide that time and space to pause, stop all the buzz in your life, reflect, and find comfort in your life.
4. Boredom Reminds Us Why We Should Keep Growing and Evolving
As photographers, we commonly pick a specific genre and specialize in it. Once we do this, we may enjoy pursuing it for some time and become exceptionally good at it. What happens is, we get to a point where all of it becomes routine, and we get less and less interested in learning.
At such points, we sometimes get bored, and we cannot seem to feel the excitement to take the camera and go out to photograph. That mindset that we already know everything in this area makes it harder for us to find the photography work exciting.
In boredom, we can see that the idea of an ultimate universal state of happiness at the peak of a career is utopic and far from reality. We can break from the routine of work and realize that our creative life is a journey and has to keep evolving to keep yielding fresh new ideas.
It’s in boredom that we begin to see the importance of continuous learning and progress in our creative lives. We get to realize that boredom is bound to catch up with us unless we keep our passion dynamic.
All this realization comes as a result of soul searching, pausing and reexamining our lives trying to figure out why our love for photography dwindled; trying to see what we’ve not done right lately.
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people tend to drift into sensation seeking when bored. What this means is, as a photographer, you find your eyes scanning for views that are stimulating to your mind, a process that engages your brain’s reward mechanism.
In the process, we can see more clearly the reason why we must not stop learning and growing in the art of photography and our career in general.
5. Boredom Generates Powerful Solutions
Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have provided some very intriguing angles to explain the need for us to embrace boredom. It turns out that when we are bored, we ignite a network in the brain called the default mode. Our bodies plunge into autopilot as we go around trying to look for something engaging to do. Interestingly, it is during this time that our brains get busy.
Scientifically speaking, once the body is in the autopilot mode, you start daydreaming, and the mind lets itself wander. In this state, you begin to think beyond the conscious as your mind drifts into the subconscious. This allows for different important connections to take place.
As a photographer, it’s during that time when you are bored that you solve some of the most nagging creativity problems of your life. This is because your subconscious mind is actively establishing connections.
Your mind does what is called autobiographical planning. This involves looking back into your life, taking note of those big moments that have kept you excited; those moments that led you to attain some of the greatest milestones of your professional life. You create a personal narrative, set goals and figure out how to reach them – all within the default mode.
Put simply, the brain does not like to be bored and will do anything to get out of it. In the process of being bored, the brain works extra hard to come up with something to do. This response is similar to the way a scared body does upon summoning an adrenaline rush.
If science is anything to go by, you’ll always come up with powerful solutions to some of the most pressing issues in your life when you let your mind drift, which happens when you are bored.
All said, no one wants to get bored and remain in that spot. The good news is, understanding boredom and its value can help you embrace it rather than hate it.
One of the greatest myths in society is that we have to be excited about something at all times if we are passionate about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. At some point, we all get bored with what we do for one reason or another. What’s important is that we learn to make the most of that creative space once it sets in. This realization is by far the genesis of a truly successful and phenomenal career in photography.