Saturday, November 2, 2013

Coming Clean About Another Place I Get Ideas

            It’s time to acknowledge it.  I get a lot of ideas in the bathroom.  Or, more specifically, the shower. 
I’ve long realized that most of my ideas come to me:  walking, napping, and highway driving.  For me, all three of these are the equivalent of meditative states (which is why the driving has to be on the Interstate and not in the city).  It turns out showering is similar. 
            As the hot water comes down, I’ll have revelations about courses I’m teaching or pieces I’m writing.  Perhaps I haven’t been forthcoming about this because it would sound creepy to tell students, “I was thinking about this class in the shower…”  Creepy, but true.
            Why does it happen?
            I think the answer is two-fold.  One, it’s a transition place where I’m gearing up to work or gearing down, so my mind has been tilling through the material.  It’s primed.  And, I’m moving from one state to another.  It’s a boundary area, a liminal space.
            Two, there is nothing else calling for my attention.  No radio.  No phone.  No TV.  No kids.  Frequently I have my eyes closed.  I’m in a receptive state.  This is key.  I said “bathroom” earlier, but I don’t get ideas on the toilet.  Why?  Because I’m usually reading there.  I don’t get a lot of ideas as a passenger in a car because I’m reading there as well, or messing with music, or eating, or playing the alphabet game.
            In the shower, there is nothing else to do, so the mind goes to work.
            It turns out that I’m not the only one this is true for.  A quick Google search reveals that Mental Floss did an article on it, “Why Do Our Best Ideas Come to Us in the Shower?"

The article explains the answer is a combination of: monotonous activity, daydreaming, de-focusing, and relaxing.  And, it argues that when we are most tired – mornings or evenings -- we are at our most creative.
            There also is an explanation of the science that happens, including the dopamine that gets released in the brain, here.

             So, want to get ideas?  Turn the phone off and the shower on.


1 comment:

  1. You're not alone when it comes to crazy places to get ideas. I actually get my ideas while I'm on the toilet. When I'm writing, and I get stuck, I go to the bathroom and sit there until I get it worked out in my head before going back to the computer.