A few weeks ago, I listened to Pete Holmes promote the second season of his endearing, funny, deeply self-aware and self-deprecating HBO show, Crashing, on Bill Simmons’ podcast. Simmons is an enigmatic Boston-bred bro/podcaster/writer who’s entertaining but also a lot. Holmes, like me, is a dweeb from Lexington, Massachusetts, and is part of the sneakily loaded Lexington Comedian Family: Mindy Kaling, Rachel Dratch, Holmes, Eugene Mirman, that one waiter at the Friendly’s on Bedford Street back in the early 2000s who would pretend he was serving you at Buckingham Palace.
With 15 minutes left in the 90-minute podcast, Holmes pivoted from stand-up-comedy talk to the power of boredom:
[My wife] and I right now are trying to limit our screen time. We’re trying to parent ourselves. Because I find that boredom is like a still lake, and your ideas are like fish. And when the lake gets still, you can see the ideas. But if it’s always choppy and always being stimulated and swirled—it’s very titilating. That’s like non-stop movies, non-stop everything. But you’re not gonna see your own shit.
Holmes continued to go full preacher for my earbud sermon:
I’m very grateful that I was f&ckin’ bored as shit [during high school] and taking out the tape recorder and making little radio shows to send to my friends. Be bored. Boredom is good. How about getting to a place where we can just f&ckin’ kick it and watch the fire? It’s 2018, and the answer isn’t always MORE. We’re forgetting how to give. We’re forgetting how to create. That’s why it’s very dangerous to check your email first thing in the morning because you’re setting the standard that I’m a reactive entity. You want to be an active entity. And I’m not just talking about artists. I’m talking about everybody. What are your thoughts? How do you feel in the morning?
With school this semester and more of a time-sensitive urgency to create every day, I’ve been trying to be more mindful about screens—not necessarily less screen time but more mindful screen time. I’ve been curious about how screen inputs fuel creative ouputs, about what feeds me, what drains me, what brings me closer to creative awareness, and what makes that awareness foggier. (I currently only have five apps on my phone—two of which are exclusively dedicated to GIFs.) I’ve been eager to cultivate boredom whenever I can. I’ve been more appreciative of how our best and clearest ideas come from stillness: the ability to be still, the ability to perpetuate still, the ability see the still ideas beneath the surface on Lake Boredom.
Some people can see those still ideas while crusin’ along in a motorboat. Some people can see them while swimming. But if you’re like me and need to slow down more (and also have a crippling, real-life, non-metaphorical fear of open waters), you can always observe from the beach.