Fighting the Stay-At-Home Boredom: Time to Create Rather Than Consume

A common theme among my friend groups is the utter boredom of being under stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of me wants to tell folks that there has never been a greater time in human history to find something to do at home. There is a plethora of content available at the touch of a finger or even voice command.

We have built a system, the web, that provides education, entertainment, and art at near-instantaneous speeds. Our WordPress community is a large part of that human endeavor.

Perhaps the problem lies with our consumerist culture. With large social media networks effectively taking over the web, the trend seems to suggest that people spend their free time glued to their mobile devices, consuming content created by others. Now that many are home full time, it is easy to grow tired of consuming content that would normally be reserved for free time at all hours of the day.

When asking what the elders in my family did in their free time decades ago, before modern technological advances, I noticed a different trend. They created music. On my grandmother’s side of the family, that musicality in our genes produced Hank Williams. On my grandfather’s side, we had The Tadlock Quartet, a little-known gospel group. If our family had a motto, it would be: if you don’t sing or play an instrument, you are not a Tadlock.

I have an uncle who is a painter and magician. Some of my cousins are in a band. My sister creates vases, tabletops, and other pieces out of broken glass when she’s not chasing her two-year-old. My father is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrument musician. I could go on listing the art that my family creates.

Maybe I was fortunate to grow up in an artistic environment. That artistry has never been about fame and fortune. Most of my family will never reach stardom. However, we continue creating because it is simply a part of who we are.

I also reminisce over my childhood years. I grew up in a lower-middle-class household. We did not have the luxury of the internet. We could not afford cable or satellite television. The only channels on the tube were 8, 12, 20, and sometimes 32. It was the era of the Saturday morning cartoon block, which I gladly awoke to every weekend with my off-brand cereal.

Like many kids of my generation, I had a video game console and a handful of games. But, there are only so many times you can play through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before finding something else to do.

Most of my childhood was spent creating things. I ran several issues of a homemade video game magazine, painstakingly drawing all the artwork by hand. Fortunately, my uncle had a printer and scanner so that I could make copies. I wrote short stories, crafted screenplays, and filmed movies on a borrowed camcorder. I built tree forts that probably would not have passed any level of building safety codes, but my friends and I survived.

I had about a three-year stint in the mid-’90s in which I fashioned myself a songwriter, following in my father’s footsteps (he has never sold a song but continues writing music to this day). I do not think I wrote anything other than love songs. What else would a 12-year-old boy write about? My only experience with love was a peck on the cheek from a previous girlfriend. Despite my naivete in matters of the heart, the human soul knows what it needs, and I expressed that through lyrics in the style of whatever boyband was popular in the given month. My music was not Grammy-worthy material, but it was deeply human.

As I grew into adulthood, I did not stop creating. My journey into the world of WordPress began only because I wanted to share my writing. Eventually, I learned to create a new type of art: WordPress plugins and themes.

Over my near-15 years of working with WordPress, my primary interest became more about building things that would help others to create. Even today, as a writer for the Tavern, my hope is to spark discussions and response articles that others create on their own blogs. This should never be a one-way discussion.

Like many others, I recently found myself in a position with “nothing to do.” For the previous several months, I had been working on a plugin development book during my free time. Suddenly, I found myself with an empty calendar for an entire weekend. No social gatherings. No book chapters due. That meant putting my artist hat firmly back on my head. It was time to enjoy the act of creation for the sake of it, which led to a new plugin.

It felt good to once again create something with no expectations. I was not getting paid to build this project. I wanted neither fame nor fortune. What I needed was a moment to express an idea.

The act of creating art is a primal part of our nature. The plugin was my modern-day equivalent of sitting around the campfire and crafting a story of slaying a great beast that happened upon the village.

I am a firm believer that every human has the capacity to create some form of artwork. A novel. A dance. A song. I have seen farmers with gardens so well-tended they would make you weep. I have watched a man with an intellectual disability hand-build intricate birdhouses. I have sat in astonishment, listening as a friend’s mother put together an entire piano arrangement after hearing a song only once.

For the same reason, I am proud to be a part of the WordPress community. I am surrounded by artists in their own right daily. We create software that allows others to share their creations.

When someone tells me they are bored during this social quarantine, I break out my speech about using this moment to create something. Anything. It does not need to have value to others. It should simply be an expression of one’s self. If they follow through, I give them a speech about building a site with WordPress to share what they have built.

No, now is not the time for boredom. It should be a time of pure creation.

Create a shop with WooCommerce for those handcrafted items you have been wanting to build for years. Build up your inventory right now so that it is ready to ship after the pandemic has passed. Write an e-book and sell it via Easy Digital Downloads. Start a local fundraising effort to help those in need in your neighborhood with the Give WP plugin. Create a new forum with bbPress on your favorite TV series or some other topic that piques your interest. Start a regular ol’ WordPress blog and share your thoughts during this time.

Use this brief moment in history to create something new. Whether it is a side hustle, a new business, or poetry, just create. Then, of course, share it via your WordPress website.


17 responses to “Fighting the Stay-At-Home Boredom: Time to Create Rather Than Consume”

  1. My dream is to take all that sweet sweet WordCamp sponsor money for events that aren’t going to happen anymore and create our own version of the depression era WPA.

    Get all sorts of people working on everything on the WP “someday” list. We could turn this tough time into something wonderful. Not only will the WordPress community benefit directly from the stuff people create but people will have something to do and some money in their pocket when both things are scarce.

    • Interesting idea. I wonder if that is something that can be done with the money. I’m unfamiliar with the process and whether there is any legal red tape for doing something like that.

      Personally, I’d like to see some money thrown toward cleaning out the 1,000s of Trac tickets.

      • You know how easy that would be with many hands doing the work. I assume you talk to Matt, ask him about it. Heck create a trac bounty system, close a ticket get some cash, win – win for everyone.

  2. I think it’s great if people want to create stuff, but I also find there’s a ton of emphasis on “go create things!” right now, and “great time to start a side hustle!” and people need to appreciate that we are in a pandemic. These are insanely stressful times – you’re not just on a voluntary break from normal life. You’re not a failure if you don’t create something. You’re not lazy if you don’t create something. There’s value in just relaxing and taking a break. Recharge. Take care of yourself. Sometimes that’s hard enough. You don’t have to be go-go-go / create-create-create. There’s value in just: meditating, catching up on sleep, reading a book, watching a great TV show, just relax. Do whatever you can to take care of yourself.

    Sure, if you’re bored and want something to do, then creating something is a great option. But I’ve seen so much stupid shaming going around implying that authors are a failure if they don’t use this time to make a big dent in their next book! Or you’re lazy if you don’t finally get that side hustle together while you have so much free time!

    • Huge +1 to this, this time is super stressful — especially for people working full-time, and also doing full-time child care.

      Another note — when I find myself bored, it’s often because I’m really feeling anxious or depressed. It’s not that I don’t want to entertain myself or create something cool, it’s that my brain is incapable of focusing on anything, so instead I just aimlessly drift from task to task. It’s a terrible cycle that ends up making me feel worse.

    • Yep, I definitely dislike the shaming posts about not having discipline if you’re not building up your business during this time. Many people definitely need a break. Life has thrown us into a bit of a whirlwind, and this will affect different people in different ways.

      If you need to relax, you should absolutely relax.

      For me, creating things is how I cope, especially during stressful times. I am a huge believer in taking personal time to enjoy myself outside of that process too. Others, like my dad in particular, would get stir-crazy after a day of what the rest of us would call relaxation.

      It should be a personal call based on how you’re feeling. No one should feel pressured, which often adds to the anxiety they may be experiencing.

      • Justin – I am old enough to remember the beginning of the web. The viewer, the audience is a constant. Expectations of style and appearance are fashion, trend. The drive to a mono culture seems to happen everywhere, site design too. Make it like everyone else’s site. Might not be you but it will not stand out as crappy. No, but it might look generic. I just do my thing and leave it at that. Being locked down, motorcycle in the garage, car sitting too, I have time to establish a web presence. I appreciate your observations and comments.

  3. First thing I read this morning.


    Nicely put. Will pass it on.

  4. For me, this time has been an absolute blessing to take a step back from my busy day job and to focus on my side hustle (my blog) after working hours, which wasn’t really an option since I set the blog up last May. Having now the opportunity to spend (virtual) time with friends and family after work, plus the time to focus on my blog makes these months feel less like they’re “lost”, but rather a good investment into the future when everything returns back to “normal”.

    • I’ve been tinkering with my personal blog as of late, mostly under-the-hood stuff that has been on my “to do” list for months. I plan to even do a little blogging over the weekend, assuming I don’t get too sucked into Animal Crossing: New Horizons. :)

      It has also been a good time for me to chat with friends and family. Sometimes it’s easy to go for weeks or months without checking in. The current lockdown has meant that we all have a little more time with each other, even if it is virtually or over the phone.

  5. I’ve been working from home since 2007 so it’s nothing really changed much from me aside from washing my hands all the time!

    Few weeks ago I build a site that help educate people about the importance of staying at home at times like this.

  6. Very interesting post. Appreciate the open window into your family’s creative endeavors through the generations.

    Along with what Ashley and others have said, I see value in both relaxing and creating, and I think they often go hand in hand, like the ebb and flow of the tide.


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