Mary Mann is far from bored. Not only was her first book, Yawn: Adventures in Boredom, published May 16, she’s also been writing and schmoozing like a madwoman.
In New York Magazine’s The Cut, Mary wrote about boredom, marriage, monogamy, and forcing her boyfriend to accompany her to a sex store trivia night. In the piece, she touched on a huge anxiety for many couples:
To call a person boring is hurtful and demeaning. To call a relationship boring, or even to say that you’re experiencing boredom within a relationship, is often seen as the kiss of death. The magazines and books advising you to avoid being boring in bed or in conversation at all costs, the shows and movies that perpetuate this idea that love is a flame that’s either lit or out — all conspire to create a belief that boredom is a kind of pox, and you’re just not as good of a couple once it touches you.
But just because we experience boredom in a relationship, Mary explains, doesn’t mean it’s the end. In fact, it’s pretty normal.
Writing for Slate, Mary tackled a huge question: Can technology solve the 2,500-year-old problem of boredom in the classroom? The reality is, well, a double-edged sword. As Mary writes,
Archer (a professor) was addressing a common conundrum of educational technology: that it can end up contributing to the problem it was created to fix—an “endless feedback loop,” as a frustrated professor I know put it. Classroom distraction doesn’t just come from the phones in students’ pockets; it can also result from the very gadgets invented for the classroom, gamified educational tools that often aid and abet short attention spans by catering to the most restless.
And yes, Mary admits she got bored listening to the professor explaining the very theories she needed to write her own article.
Mary also write a piece for Outside titled “How to Turn Boredom into a Performance Enhancer.” If only it were that easy… Still, as Mary explains, the world’s best endurance athletes get bored, too. But instead of giving up, like us, they push through boredom to find flow, the coveted state of “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake”:
It sounds fantastic, but there is a downside: boredom and flow both tend to flourish under the same conditions—an extended period of time devoted to a single activity. Thus, by trying to squash boredom with, say, a good podcast, you’re decreasing the chances of achieving flow.
. . .
But [the sports psychologist] went on to explain that if runners who feel occasional boredom “can make it through those lethal first minutes to the other side,” they might find their mind starting to follow new and unexpected routes. This tracks with recent research finding that boredom actually helps us develop certain positive skills, like creativity and associative thinking. As Black Girls Run co-founder Toni Carey told me, “Running can be a spiritual experience, but I notice that those times when I can feel everything flowing together, every movement connected with my breath, they happen when I’m not running with music.”
Eh, we’ll stick to leisurely walking the treadmill while reading.
And if you still aren’t bored (no, we’re not done making bored jokes yet), Mary published two excerpts of the book online. The first, in Electric Literature, is an essay about how boredom and an enterprising Brit (Thomas Cook) gave birth to the modern tourism industry. And the second excerpt, published in Literary Hub, breaks down boredom in the office place. Finally, Mary did two fantastic interviews with The Atlantic and The Culture Trip.
Check it out, and get a copy of Yawn now!