On Ned Kelly, Art, and Why Boredom Is a Precious Resource

Warning: This article deals with the topic of depression and may be triggering for some readers.

Boredom: A state of existence that terrifies some folks. They’d rather feel angry. They’d rather be Ned Kelly on death row. They’d rather drown themselves in nine hours of TikTok.

Personally, I’ve been very blessed to have developed a good relationship with boredom. In fact, I now believe that it’s good for me to sometimes get bored. Here’s why.

Why It’s Good to Be Bored

As a kid, I grew up in NSW’s Wagga Wagga. At the time, this joint was made of 40C summers, a landscape of drought, and a limited number of recreational activities. This meant that my holidays often turned from exuberance into barren fields of dull days.

I also grew up with parents who limited my screen time. They didn’t let me watch videotapes of The Ferals on repeat. For some reason, they didn’t let me use their dial-up on the daily. 

I really resented these restrictions at the time, but as I reflect back on my school holidays now, I’m so genuinely grateful. ‘Cause in these moments of boredom, I turned to art. I’d write stories, make plays, draw pictures, and even gave animation a whirl.

An Anti-War Drawing by Joel Burrows
By Joel Burrows

Boredom helped foster a hunger for storytelling within my stomach. If I was never bored, I may have gobbled up art, but never created any of my own.

As an adult, I still try to give myself the time to be bored, but in 2023, boredom can be hard to come by. From Instagram to my cereal boxes, there’s no space for empty spaces. It feels like no one wants me to drift through the wind.

Now, I schedule boredom into my day by trying not to use my phone on the bus. Have I always been successful? No. Sometimes I suckle on the teet of Reddit like a starved piglet. Sometimes I scroll through Youtube, but never click on a vid.

Nevertheless, I always find it immensely rewarding when I’m able to get bored. I get to sit with myself, dream limitless thoughts, and turn my mind palace into a jungle gym.

If I was never bored, I wouldn’t have written the following pieces:

These three articles are some of my favourite works that I’ve had the privilege to write. So, from where I’m standing, boredom can be a precious resource.

Yes, it’s sometimes good to be bored.

Why It’s Sometimes Bad to Be Bored

As it’s already been established, I am a boredom simp. However, I do recognise that too much of it can be dangerous.

During the height of Sydney’s 106 day lockdown, I was constantly bored. This boredom would feed my depression and my depression would feed a sense of hopelessness. It was bad vibes all the way down.

What’s more, the art that I made during this time only helped me so much. Sure, it kept my mind somewhat afloat, but it couldn’t cure me. I needed events, therapy, and for time to resume. Boredom went from a blessing to a curse.

Tragically, like all emotions, boredom is complicated.

Boredom: An Engaging Conclusion

During the height of the 2021 lockdown, when the boredom became too much, I drew a lot of Ned Kelly portraits in Microsoft Paint. Here are a few examples:

Boredom 01 by Joel Burrows
By Joel Burrows
Boredom 02 by Joel Burrows
By Joel Burrows

Cut to 2023. In May, I finally felt like I could come back to these artworks and reflect on their meaning.

In a moment of useful boredom last month, I wrote the following poem. It will now act as the bow that will tie up this article. Enjoy.

The Ned Kelly Poem

I drew so many pictures of
you during lockdown.
Spilt too much Microsoft Paint.

I needed to become next
Sidney Nolan.
I wanted a lap dance in the
National Gallery of Australia.

are you a coping mechanism?
Are you a genius?
Are you a sopping wet,
weeping wet,
cry in the darkness for some help?

I promise to never Google crimes,
You’ll always be an artwork to me.

Such is life baby.
Such is every life.

If this article brings up any issues for you or anyone you know, or you think you may be experiencing depression or need support with your mental health, please contact your GP or in Australia, contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636), all of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7.

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