I don’t love my smartphone. If you were to take it away from me tomorrow I wouldn’t suffer any separation anxiety. When I meet a friend at the pub my phone stays in my pocket. It absolutely does not sit on the table winking at me like some enraged cyclops. Sometimes I go days without checking Facebook. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate my phone. I do. Waiting for a train or bus is no longer a drag with the internet only a click away. Ditto a delayed appointment at the dentist surgery. I have an endless fountain of information and entertainment at my fingertips whenever I want it. Oh yes, my phone is a ruthlessly efficient boredom killing device. Lately though, I’ve been thinking it might be killing something else as well. My daydreams.
I used to daydream a lot when I was a kid. The internet didn’t exist so if I wanted to entertain myself by reading I’d have to open a book. If I wanted to watch a movie I needed a TV or someone to drive me to the cinema. Walkman’s existed so technically I could carry my music with me but they were clunky, obtrusive things with short battery lives. And so I was bored often. And so I daydreamed.
Sunday mass was especially rich for daydreams. As soon as the priest began the opening blessing my thoughts raced off to be somewhere else infinitely less churchy. Certain classes at school had the same effect. Sometimes I could plot an entire story over the course of a single geometry lesson. I would leave the classroom none the wiser about Pythagoras but elated by my flights of fancy.
The older I’ve grown, the busier my life has become – a demanding job, family and friend commitments. These days the quiet spaces in my life are few and far between. Rarely do I have absolutely nothing to do and when those times arrive – opportunities to simply sit and be alone with my thoughts – I keep myself busy. Play Angry Birds, check my twitter feed, update my Facebook status. Anything to avoid boredom.
This might not seem a big deal. Daydreaming is generally frowned upon in our society. Teachers and bosses alike are usually unwilling to accept it as an excuse for lack of productivity. The world tells us it’s better to be bored and busy than idle and dreaming.
Unless you’re a writer. Or someone likewise who values creative thought. In which case the loss of daydreams is a mortifying prospect indeed. For what are daydreams if not the tilling of the fertile soil where inspiration might take seed? The place where stories are born.
I like my smartphone but I don’t love it. Maybe, I should leave it at home more often. Maybe, we all should? Funny Facebook pictures of cats can wait and those Angry Birds aren’t going to get any less angry. Boredom isn’t something to dread. It’s a natural, perhaps necessary, step on the path towards inspiration. And a small price to pay for the chance to dream.