I’m Chairman of the Bored! Advice from Iggy Pop and John Berryman

Words by Edward Murden - @spookyelvis_

As I sit here walking ideas back and forth in my head I feel the boredom nagging away at me. The same boredom that has been filling my days, unnoticed at first but now all-consuming. When you’re a young writer asking for advice you are told over and over to ‘write what you know’. Here’s what I know right now, the four walls of my two rooms, eight walls total, excluding bathrooms. Coffee, cans and rice. Today two girls carried a large amazon package across the car park opposite my window while an old man went through the charity clothes bin.

Lying on my sofa, counting the beams on my ceiling I looked over to my girlfriend and exclaimed ‘I’m bored!’ It feels very powerless to admit, frankly childish. I remember when I was very young I turned to my grandma and admitted the same. She replied that if I was smart, and she assured me I was, that I shouldn’t ever be bored. After that when I got to staring aimlessly out of the window I felt bad for not having found something better to do, that it somehow meant I wasn’t creative enough.

I think we often get the impression that these great practitioners that we admire were never bored; they never had ordinary thoughts at all in fact. I remember my friend once saying that the trouble with having heroes before the age of social media is you’ll never know what they’re thinking when they’re in line at the post office. Now thanks to twitter we do and mostly it's unimpressive, these people are just people. I remember the first time I saw a photo of Nick Cave in a t-shirt. But we can be encouraged by the knowledge that in between the writing of all great poems, songs, books, between each stroke of every great painting there was an ordinary thought and some boredom.

To prove my point and in the hopes of encouraging others, I will share a couple of the things I look to when the boredom takes hold. The first is a poem by the 20th-century poet John Berryman. In Dream song 41 he addresses the very anecdote I describe earlier on when he says ‘and moreover my mother told me as a boy, (repeatedly) "Ever to confess you’re bored, means you have no - inner resources."' I have been preoccupied with this piece ever since I saw a video of Berryman giving an extraordinary and drunk rendition of it on YouTube.

Dream Song 41

By John Berryman

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns, we ourselves flash and yearn, and moreover my mother told me as a boy (repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored means you have no Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored. Peoples bore me, literature bores me, especially great literature, Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes as bad as Achilles, who loves people and valiant art, which bores me. And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag and somehow a dog has taken itself & its tail considerably away into mountains or sea or sky, leaving behind: me, wag.

Thinking this poem over, I lay around for a few days until I realised that boredom could be the inspiration in and of itself. If you want to create something but can’t get inspired there's no reason to feel bad but perhaps the boredom your feeling could be what drives your next project. With this poem fresh in my mind this week the next time I found myself admitting that awful sin "I’m bored" I looked straight to Berryman and was, in turn, reminded of Iggy Pop. By doing this I took ownership of my restlessness by ending my confession with a triumphant ‘I’m chairman of the board!’

These being the opening line the song continues in the way you would predict, an ode to boredom. With its restless drum beat Iggy Pop continues to airs his frustrations "I’m a lengthy monologue, I’m living like a dog. I’m bored." But I would say that the songs overall tone is not one of defeat but of ownership, of mastery in admitting how he’s feeling. My aim in writing this was to encourage others as well as myself that there isn’t nothing at all wrong with being bored and proving to myself that those that I respect were bored too.

No matter what you do to pass your time it’s creative in some way and so it will be common to run out of inspiration. Before our confinement we could shake up our routine, do something new but now that we find that we can’t there isn’t any reason to give in to despair. You can take the day off, the week off, take it easy, your creativity isn’t going anywhere. Let this time teach us not to be shameful about it but to shout "I’m bored, I’m chairman of the bored!" But I would still encourage everyone to create something beautiful, but later after you’ve binge-watched some TV.