Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant Challenge: Writers Edition

Photo credit: Ted Conference via CC BY-NC 2.0

A couple of days ago, I wrote about Manoush Zomorodi’s forthcoming book, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self, and I’d like to describe her project more here. The book is based on the “Bored and Brilliant” project, part of Zomorodi’s Note to Self podcast.

A good introduction to her ideas is the Fast Company article “What Happened When We Spent a Week Detoxing From Our Smartphones.” Below are the daily challenges outlined there (the challenges in the book are a bit different but in essence the same), with some added ideas of my own, especially for writers

Day 1: In Your Pocket

The first daily challenge is simple but not necessarily easy. Keep your phone in your pocket (or bag) unless you need it for something specific. When you feel the itch to check it, especially when you are tired or bored or stuck, resist. Instead, allow your mind to daydream and ponder and question and pull together events of the day. Every time you overcome the urge to check your phone, you strengthen your ability to stay on track and focus.

Tip for writers: Keep a small notebook in your pocket or bag alongside or even instead of your phone at times, and train yourself to reach for that to jot ideas or notes instead of checking Instagram or Facebook.

Day 2: Photo Free Day

For a day, take and post no photos, and instead pay particular attention to what you otherwise would view through a phone camera lens.

A tweak to this challenge is to allow yourself to take photos, but not to post them, and instead to share them privately via messages or email with specific people, or not to share them at all.

Tip for writers: Choose something you would normally photograph for Instagram or Facebook, and, instead, write a paragraph describing it.

Day 3: Delete That App

What phone app do you find most addictive? It might be social media or a game or even a news source. Ready? Take a deep breath.

Delete it.

My choice for this challenge was Twitter, which I still check occasionally on my laptop, but not having that little blue bird on my phone definitely frees up time and mental space.

Tip for writers: Replace the deleted app with a writing app such as Notes, where you can dictate or type in quick thoughts about works in progress.

Day 4: Take a Fauxcation

I love this idea. Choose a day to tell the online world that you are away from your phone. Set an email vacation message. Post social media updates saying you’ll be offline for a day (or more). The kicker is that you won’t be away from home—just away from your phone.

Tip for writers: Plan a writing retreat day in which you act as though you have no internet access, and write your ass off.

Day 5: One Small Observation

Pay particular attention to something you normally would overlook. Writers are already good at this, but more practice never hurts.

Tip for writers: Sit in a public place and write for a full 15 minutes describing the scene around you.

Day 6: Dream House

The point of the final challenge is to embrace rather than run from boredom, and to use it to spark creativity. You can read the full instructions here (short version: watch a pot of water come to a boil, then empty the contents of your wallet and use the items to build a dream house).

Tip for writers: Before writing, watch a pot of water come to a boil (do nothing else, especially not check your phone). See if it makes a different in your productivity or creativity.

I’d love to hear if you try any of these challenges and how they work for you. 

Want to learn more? Below is a 20-minute audio podcast of “Bored and Brilliant Boot Camp” designed just for summer:


DIY Summer Writing Retreat graphicThis post is part of the DIY Summer Writing Retreat blog series, with daily posts Monday through Friday. Subscribe to receive full-length new posts in your inbox or catch them on my Facebook page.

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