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What's wrong with boredom?

Unstructured time is the mother of creativity.

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Last month, my husband and I completed what some of our friends considered a fool's errand: a 32-day, 5,232-mile camping trip from Louisiana to California and back with three children in our Volkswagen van.

It wasn't the certainty of back-seat squabbling and high gas prices that provoked our friends' skepticism. It was that we planned to make the trip without a DVD player to occupy the children as we crossed scrubby west Texas and New Mexico.

"They'll be so bored," one friend said. "It's going to be awful," said another. Even my husband had his doubts. "I'm not opposed to getting a DVD player," he confessed as we sat in traffic outside Beaumont, Texas. "Things might get a bit boring for the kids."

I asked him what I had asked myself in the run-up to our departure: What's so bad about boring?

My friend Renee, who has driven cross-country with her three kids eight times, calls boredom the mother of creativity. She's not the only one who sees virtue in idle time. In a recently published paper, researchers at East Anglia University in England concluded that the trancelike state helps recharge the mind and is "central to learning and creativity."


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