Some creative types rely on beautiful muses for inspiration. Others circle the globe, hopeful that glimpses of snow-capped mountain peaks and ancient ruins will ignite their imaginations.
Me? I just change diapers. A lot.
My toddler’s cuteness more than compensates for the stinky mess he makes down below, so I don’t find changing diapers to be an unpleasant a task — but it is, given its frequency, rather monotonous, leaving me performing most diaper changes on auto-pilot. And that’s the beauty of it: Because I am so bored, my mind wanders every which way and before I know it, bam! I get to thinking about something I’d like to write.
A recent study finds that I’m far from alone in finding inspiration through tedium. In an experiment by psychologists at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K., some study participants copied numbers from a telephone book while others did something more creative. Afterward, both groups were asked to brainstorm different uses for a polystyrene cup. The group assigned the boring task earlier came up with more uses.
“Being bored actually signals to the mind that you’re in need of fresh ideas and spurs creative thinking,” Inc. columnist Jessica Stillman reported.
In 2012, another study on creativity, this one out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, yielded similar results.
While coverage of the benefits of boredom has revolved largely around cubicle-types, I see such studies’ findings shedding major light on a phenomenon that any blog-happy reader can testify to: A wealth of moms (and a growing number of dads) producing creative posts, jokes, memes, videos, etc.
There are many different reasons for the explosion of parenting blogs over the years, but did anyone stop to question how it is that parenting bloggers, themselves, are so prolific? I would argue that it’s because so much of parenthood, especially when it comes to caring for young children, is a daily slog through boring, monotonous tasks — did you wipe the baby’s tray table 86 times this week or 87? —that our often underwhelmed brains can’t help but come up with great or at least somewhat entertaining ideas.
At least a couple of my mom blogger friends back me up on this. What’s Up Moms? YouTube vlogger Elle Walker, who just produced a hilarious video on her own struggle with a repetitive routine, said she gets many of her ideas during breastfeeding sessions with her son Ford. While nursing, she said, “I don’t like to always have my cell phone around Ford so (there is) nothing to do but think.”
For Meredith Spidel, of The Mom of the Year, brilliant thoughts bubble up while bathing her kids or washing dishes.
“Part of me thinks that this is some sort of cruel joke because my hands are too wet and soapy to write anything down and I immediately forget all my fab ideas,” she said.
Not everyone is on the yay-for-boredom bandwagon, however. Karen Alpert, author of I Heart My Little A-Holes and the blogger behind Baby Sideburns, said she wishes boring activities brought on creative impulses.
“I find it’s actually the opposite for me. I have to get out there and do things to get my mind going,” she said.
But Alpert and Spidel have something in common on the creativity front: both say showering also inspires greatness.
“For some odd reason, that makes my funny side come out,” Alpert told me. “Maybe seeing my naked body in the mirror makes me laugh and make jokes to save myself from crying.”
Alpert’s naked theory aside, many would argue that showering is monotonous enough to fall under the “so boring it births creativity” category. And some say the relaxing nature of showering also helps boosts your out-of-the-box thinking.
Showering clearly isn’t unique to parents of young children — in fact, many of us probably shower less frequently than the general U.S. population — so there’s not much reason for me to dwell on the subject here …
Although I suppose the argument that showering makes you brilliant could come in handy for bloggers trying to justify extra long, indulgent showers to their non-blogging spouses. “I’m sorry, honey, you’re just going to have to take the kids to the playground by yourself. My loofah and I have some important work to do this morning!”
If you go that route, let’s just hope all those new ideas can help pay your new, sky-high water bill. Eh, maybe I’ll just stick to changing diapers.
More from Alice: