When I used to teach graduate students in furniture design, I would assign them an abstract problem that required them to sit in the studio and draw through free association over a long period of time without getting up from their seats. After about 45 minutes, most students would start to squirm and get uncomfortable. If they hadn’t been in my class they would likely have stood up, checked their e-mail, gone online, or found other distractions. But I encouraged them to push through the discomfort because, after many years of running the same exercise, I had learned that right after the “squiggly” stage, something incredible happens. Often, a whole new direction for their work would emerge—something completely unfamiliar and unexpected.
What was it about those uncomfortable moments that unleashed their creativity? Was it something magical or mysterious? Hardly. I believe it was boredom, pure and simple—something all of us (and artists and designers in particular) need more of in our lives.