A letter to the bored by Riet Timmerman

A letter to the bored

You will find pastime for the hot hours before us, not in play [..] but in telling of stories, in which the invention of one may afford solace to all the company of his hearers [1].

I sat down to write the first instalment in the After Decameron series and promptly realised that starting something new when you feel uninspired and bored is challenging. A conversation with my best friend springs to mind where she encouragingly said ‘perhaps you should approach this piece of writing as if you are starting a conga line’ – my least favourite dance ever.

My friends often complain on Instagram that they are feeling bored – which is seemingly followed by cat filter photos or ‘which__ are you?’ questions on their Instagram stories, with their answers somehow disappearing into the ether, evaporating into a digital air of boredom.

In my current state of learning to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging with this digital air of nothingness seems in fact valuable and productive. There is a loving reassurance in knowing that others are experiencing a similar sense of wading through a miasma of tedium with the internet, a swirl of overwhelming boredom. I am learning to embrace my own dreary feelings as a start of a writing experiment, building a collection of thoughts and stories that can help ‘pass time for the hot hours before us’.

I read in the Belgian newspaper that research is currently being done into the white-crowned sparrow. A type of sparrow that, unlike other bird species, has an unusual capacity for staying awake for as long as seven days during migration periods in North America. These researchers aim to ultimately transfer this capacity onto humans, creating an incredibly productive person that can function without sleep or with so-called ‘Uberman’ sleeping patterns, where you only sleep three hours every day. Reading this feels like an invisible push, into being the best, self-fulfilled version of myself – one that is never sleepy or bored, always productive and creative. Will the action of not sleeping push me towards maximised productivity, or is it also a way of opening up time for leisure? With so much time to engage in leisure activity as external commitments and social responsibilities disappear with social distancing, I still feel pressure to be productive – instead of giving in to a void of dullness and nothingness.

These thoughts on ‘boredom’ have rattled around my mind for over a year – initiated by a guy I used to be in love with, stating proudly that he never gets bored. He saw it as a flaw in character, where you become unengaged and uninteresting in your uninterestedness. I must be boring someone right now. I decide to better embrace these feelings of boredom and let myself be bored by them:

I’ve been quoted a lot as saying ‘I like boring things.’ Well I said it and I meant it. But that doesn’t mean I am not bored by them (Andy Warhol).

After this train of thought, my friend’s words pop up once again in my head: ‘You are starting a conga line, not a train. You won’t drive us [the writers] all off track, wherever you go, we will follow’.

So what follows is a new text every week that can swirl in any direction, move to any rhythmic beats from straight lines to circles, and that may be absorbed or evaporate in a digital air of boredom.

With love and anxious excitement to see where we go together,


[1] Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by J.M. Rigg. Il Decamerone. p.62.

Riet Timmerman (b. 1993, BE) is a curator based in London. Currently, she is working as Project Manager & Production Assistant at Open Space. Her curatorial work has been centered around the communication of female representation and how this affects our social, political and personal narratives. She holds an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths in 2018, an MA in Cultural Studies and MA in Literature & Linguistics (Major in English) from K.U. Leuven (BE).