Recently I’ve done a lot of traveling by car. It’s gotten me thinking about taking a break and “doing” a bit of nothing — and how useful (and necessary) this can be.
Sitting in a car for hours without touching a phone brings me back to simpler times. It reminds me of a childhood in which I’d listen to music and stare out the window, pretending the music was a movie soundtrack for my life. Looking out over an expanse of pastures might bore the average kid nowadays in an electronic world. But sitting without a screen? I’m thinking it promotes more than what some see as dullness.
I used to see Indiana Jones riding his horse alongside us over the hills and pastures. His intensity would change with each song, and each time I was given an opportunity to create a new story for him. Whenever Indiana Jones took a break, I placed myself in the head of a director and cameraman to film my life story beginning in that exact moment.
I’d pick the tone based on the music and invent a backstory as to why that tone fit the movie scene. A sad song was because we were moving away from all my friends to live in a new area I’d never even heard of. A happy song was because everything in my life was finally going alright (though that was the point in the movie right before everything was about to go to sh*t). I came up with some awesome stories and actually enjoyed my time sitting in the car.
I used to love creative writing (and thinking!) and put time and effort into making it part of my routine during my free time. Nowadays, I still enjoy writing but I find it more difficult to spark that creative flare back up again when I need it. I’d say it partially stems from not spending enough time doing nothing. Maybe that sounds strange. How can doing nothing help creativity? But think about it. When your eyes are locked onto your phone screen, it’s difficult to let your mind roam to random ideas that maybe don’t make much sense but are fun nonetheless. And that maybe, just maybe, might spark a really great idea.
In the beginning, everything started out as a crazy idea. There was no way an automobile would work — yet nearly everyone owns one today. Planes flying in the sky? A mere fantasy — and now we have airports all over the world. Communicating with someone across the world used to take months to travel by boat, but now we are lucky enough to have a device in our pocket that can do it in seconds. All of these ideas began as crazy conceptions in someone’s mind, and now they are an important part of our everyday reality.
Who knows exactly how these ideas came into being, but I’d bet that some of the best ideas were helped along with a little time of nothingness. Some people may call this time of nothingness meditation. If you like that terminology, awesome. Others may hear meditation and want to run the other way because it makes them think of a difficult process of clearing your mind into a completely blank slate (though I’d say meditation is what you make of it — if it’s putting some music on, driving, and just taking some time to think and enjoy the scenery, go with it — that can be your own meditation). Whatever you call it, what matters in the end is the peace of mind that comes from doing “nothing” for a stretch of time — and the potential creativity that could grow from it.
The world around us is fast-paced. I think it’d be useful to remember the wise words of Ferris Bueller:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.Ferris Bueller
The beauty of the world goes to waste if we can’t take a few minutes a day to simply sit and let our senses take over. Listen to the noises of nature. Absorb the beautiful colors you see.
Relaxing our busy brains through focusing on the input from our senses might allow some of the most creative ideas to flow freely. The idea for the next big invention is waiting to be conceived, and who’s to say that that idea could not be yours if you simply gave yourself a few minutes a day to cut the productivity and let yourself do nothing but exist in this exact moment?
Here’s to “doing” a bit of nothing today. It might be just what we need.