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Lockdown boredom has not sparked my creativity - and I'm fine with that

The Guardian logo The Guardian 22/05/2020 Coco Khan

Lockdown boredom has not sparked my creativity - and I'm fine with that © Shutterstock Lockdown boredom has not sparked my creativity - and I'm fine with that The boredom of childhood was nothing like adulthood’s. Back then, boredom was simply a matter of physical space: stuck at home with nothing to do, or at the hairdresser’s waiting for Mum. If I complained, she would offer me a mop. “Some of us don’t have the luxury of being bored,” she would say.

Soon, I realised boredom was more about mental space. I filled my mind with books, films and the internet. But the adults complained I never stuck to anything; not dance club, or book club, or the short-lived dance book club led by a community centre volunteer who hated dance and books and, likely, life.

Gallery: These photos of cats in cute costumes will put a smile on your face (Photos)

“I don’t get bored easily,” I’d say. “I’m just interested in other things.”

A university lecturer on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary said boredom is a sign of imminent artistic explosion. I clung to the notion. By then, my main boredom trigger was people – the exercise-obsessed friend, the date unable to talk about anyone but himself. I would fret: if interesting people are so because of their interests, are boring people so because of their boredom? If I am bored, am I boring? I couldn’t think of anything worse.

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How to stay safe working, travelling and shopping (Sky News)

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This week I found that copy of Madame Bovary when I cleared out the shed. “Boredom is a precursor to creativity,” I’d written in the margin. Maybe I needed that to be true to justify my own. Why do we attach a moral value to boredom as though only the unimaginative get bored?

Not every human action needs to be judged as good or bad, productive or not © Shutterstock Not every human action needs to be judged as good or bad, productive or not A decade later, I think it’s safe to call it: no creative explosion (a sparkler at best). But if the extremity of lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that boredom is an unavoidable fact of life. No matter how tightly we schedule our lives, boredom will always find us – in the supermarket queue, and in work and pleasures we usually like. I’m not ashamed to say I have been bored, even when busy. But not every human action needs to be judged as good or bad, productive or not. Perhaps it’s that way of thinking that’s most boring of all.

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Stay at home as much as possible to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.


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