Do you get ideas in the shower?
June 4, 2009 9:52 AM   Subscribe

One thing: Why is it I come up with all these ideas in the shower. What about the shower make it easier to focus? How can I replicate the shower without having to take a shower? If I can't replicate the shower: Is there a good (water proof?) erasable marker for making notes on the shower wall? Or is that all just crazy?
posted by metajc to Writing & Language (34 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I have your disease. I don't know what it is either, but the shower is magic.

Any dry-erase marker will work fine as long as your shower wall is glossy paint or sealed (usually gloss) tiles. It's almost certainly fine, since it's waterproof, right, but just to be sure, test first on a small corner, and use a marker color that sort-of-matches your bathroom just in case you end up with a tint from much re-use.

The wall right under your shower-head probably doesn't get actual water running down it, so that's a good choice.

If your walls are the claylike kind, or your shower is so small that water splashes on all the walls, then you're out of luck and should hang a whiteboard just outside, with a pen on a string.
posted by rokusan at 9:56 AM on June 4, 2009

Not crazy. I've had this same observation. My guess: relaxation from the warm water and a certain amount of sensor deprivation allowing one to focus.
posted by Mr.Me at 9:56 AM on June 4, 2009

I find that part of the excellence of the shower (or the can, for me) is the fact that it's hard to take notes in and thus that it's a place to relax. One thing you might take into consideration is that while taking notes in the shower is a nice idea, it might itself be the thing that ends up eliminating that rare spark of focus or idea that you're able to find.
posted by suedehead at 9:58 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

While working on my dissertation I found that some of my greatest ideas were had in the shower. I jokingly mentioned this to my friend, who was an architecture student at the time, who then promptly purchased a water-proof notebook for me. I still have one and keep it in the bathroom. It can be written on with just a simple pencil. Pretty awesome.
posted by banannafish at 9:58 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alan Greenspan does most of his work while soaking in the bathtub each morning. IIRC, he wrote on paper and clipped them up on a line he had hanging above it.

Several of my professors have confessed that they would run the building out of hot water as they showered, thinking of ideas. I've been told that this is when your subconscious mind kicks in and solves problems.

You can always use a Grease Pencil on your shower wall.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:59 AM on June 4, 2009

Taking notes in the shower? I think you're looking for bathtub crayons.

Totally agree about brainstorming, etc in the shower. Perhaps it's the relaxation. Have you tried meditation, or sitting down with a cup of chamomile?
posted by HumuloneRanger at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2009

I too have the same affliction, but it never even occurred to me to use my shower as a whiteboard! That's a brilliant idea. I have no ideas on how to replicate the shower experience (although I have a suspicion it has to do with being relaxed, and without anything really pressing to think about that), but now i'm going to put some whiteboard markers near my shower!
posted by cgg at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2009

Yeah crayons will work on the wall and water proof notebooks are fairly cheap and would be effective to take the ideas with you.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:03 AM on June 4, 2009

Why is it I come up with all these ideas in the shower.

I would guess that it's because you're letting your mind float around in a non-stimulated, non-goal-oriented way. Maybe you might want to try eliminating stimuli from other areas of your life? Turn off the TV, turn off the music, put down the book, just go for a walk or something. Carve out more of a space for your mind to just wander.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:04 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

China markers - they come in lots of colors and sizes, you can write all over the walls of your shower, and are largely waterproof (friction of water may take if off, if it is in the spray).
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2009

I get the shower inspiration, too. And also the commute inspiration. I sometimes get it from sanding wood, but only after I've stopped resenting the sandpaper and the wood and go with it.

All of which, contra Mr.Me, suggests relaxation and sensory deprivation aren't the primary drivers here (though perhaps they are contributors). Maybe it's routine.
posted by notyou at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've always called them 'showerpiphanies'.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:08 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

As to why, here's my speculation: First, there's no distraction. You don't have the TV or radio on in the background, or are surfing the internet when you're taking a shower; you're not on the phone, and (generally) not interacting with anyone else. Secondly, you're not devoted to working on any specific problem (as you probably would be if you were sitting at your desk), so your mind is free to wander off on weird tangents. Thirdly, the task at hand (showering) is not intellectually challenging, so you're not spending very much mental effort on that, and can spare it for other things, but at the same time it's necessary, so you don't have that "I should be doing something productive" nagging voice in the back of your head.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:15 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

How about Rite in the Rain stuff?
posted by phrakture at 10:26 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

for me, forced confinement + lack of information input makes my mind wander & wonder. any similar situation that you can stick to will zone you out. yoga, meditation etc will work.... but i cannot sit still long enough for these. my head zooms when i am doing an involved chore that i feel must happen - so no wiggling out.... cutting oleanders, trimming trees, digging weeds, washing the car... i am stuck in one spot with no new information being received.

for the shower, i have always used eyeliner pencils for notes to other housemates. 90 and 9 cents at a drugstore. will stay on in water, will clean off with alcohol.
posted by babsomatica at 10:28 AM on June 4, 2009

White Noise, like a shower (and for some driving in a light rain on a straight highway, etc.), induces creativity. I suggest a white-noise machine especially one that let's you choose various soundtracks (e.g. white noise, rain, burbling brook, etc.). There are also CDs and MP3's available of these sounds.
posted by ericb at 10:30 AM on June 4, 2009

Shigeru Miyamoto also says he comes up with a lot of ideas in the bathtub.

I find that I can come up with good ideas during boring meetings while I'm zoning out. I think ideas will come to you when you're forced to be in one place and no particular stimulus dominates your attention, as DevilsAdvocate and ericb are saying.
posted by ignignokt at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2009

You didn't elaborate on the nature of your ideas but if they are stream of consiousness sort of ideas then mayby keeping a voice recorder somewhere nearby could be a solution. This way you don't have to break out of the reverie that having a shower brings on, you can just release your ideas verbally for later digestion.

This might not work as well for scientific equations or calculations but it would be stellar for musical or poetic inspriation.
posted by talkingmuffin at 10:50 AM on June 4, 2009


I love it.

And funny one should mention sanding wood; my dad makes wooden tools and just zones out for hours sanding (for fun).

Anybody have a shower or bath computer/typewriter?
posted by metajc at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2009

Freddie Mercury got the basic idea for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" while taking a bath. And John Lennon once said in an interview that ideas always came to him in the bath. He mentioned that he learned this "trick" from Yoko, who in turn said that all women knew the best place in a house to truly get away from it all was the bathtub. (I didn't know that this was universal female knowledge, but maybe that explains those "Calgon, take me away!" commercials.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:23 AM on June 4, 2009

I went to art school and took a class about strategies for coming up with ideas and concepts. Besides stuff like brainstorming, we talked about this phenomena of zoning out being conducive to creativity. I think one of the reasons it 'works' is you're in a non-judgmental state of mind and you make connections that you otherwise wouldn't.

I always carried a dry erase marker in my car because I would always think of ideas while driving long distances (sketch or write thing on the glass window when you stop).
posted by bradbane at 11:26 AM on June 4, 2009

Why is it I come up with all these ideas in the shower

This post from the blue is about an article that tries to answer this question.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:40 AM on June 4, 2009

I find that I do this a lot when I'm outside working in the garden. It doesn't take a lot of brain power to deadhead or weed, so my mind is able to wander off wherever it likes, and will usually lead to a fun creative idea.

My shower ideas are more concrete and task oriented, e.g., problem-solving, answers to questions, or thinking about a specific person (and maybe their problems). This inevitably leads to my starting off a conversation with "So I was thinking about you in the shower..."
posted by zach braff's mixtape at 11:45 AM on June 4, 2009

I get this too--but NOT in a bath, only the shower.
I'm with ericb. I believe it's white noise and not simply relaxation. I can sort of replicate it with earplugs. The oceanside is good too.

Assuming that it IS white noise, what is the scientific explaination for that? What areas of the brain are or aren't stimulated?
posted by Toto_tot at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2009

Without the constant turbulence of life, your mind is free to wander. If you want to have better, more creative ideas, put yourself in distraction-free situations more often. I used to go up to the roof level in a stairwell to get that same experience - nothing to do up there but think.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:51 AM on June 4, 2009

Is there a good (water proof?) erasable marker for making notes on the shower wall? Or is that all just crazy?

+1 on the notion that if I did this it would ruin the effect for me.
posted by advil at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2009

Yup, this happens to me too. I subscribe to the sensory deprivation theory. When there's no input, my brain can finally start providing me with ideas instead of just absorbing them. Sometimes I go sit on the toilet just to think regardless of if I actually need a toilet.

Anyway, would a waterproof voice recorder of some sort work? Maybe keep one in a ziplock bag? I don't know if it would pick up your voice over the water though.
posted by valadil at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2009

N-thing the dry erase marker.

It's why they say to go take a walk, or a shower, or work on something else if you're stuck creatively. And why inspiration often strikes as you're trying to sleep.
posted by litterateur at 1:28 PM on June 4, 2009

The word eureka is (apocryphally) said to have been coined by Archimedes in the bathtub, after which he supposedly ran thru the streets of syracuse naked because he was so excited about his new idea (figuring volume of irregular objects). His is less random, since he noticed something about his body in the bath to reach his conclusion, but deserves mention...

Showers are private time with yourself. You're in a tiny white room with only white noise, and completely comfortable because you're warm & naked & clean (or getting clean)... If you're happy you sing, if you're sad you cry, if your emotions aren't intervening, you have some good thinking time. Basically, what else will you do? Unless you're very tired and zoning out, or very focused on your method of scrubbing, your mind is the focus, unlike when you're watching TV, or sitting at a desk with books or people or a pet around, or even just vaguely annoyed by uncomfortable jeans or the neighbor's music or stuff you know you have to clear up in your peripheral vision.

But, I'll also say that it might be a bit of a confirmation bias. I don't think I get more ideas in the shower than elsewhere, but it is a place I'm least likely to be able to jot something down.
posted by mdn at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2009

The thing that people make low budget white boards out of is actually called "showerboard" and it's about $25-40 for a 4x8 sheet and if your shower isn't already made out of it, you could definitely import some. I made a white board for my office out of this material. I get all my ideas as I'm standing out on the porch having a once-a-day cigarette before I go to sleep. I feel like it's a routine that self-fulfills. Since I'm used to getting ideas then, ideas come more easily because I'm in some way anticipating them.
posted by jessamyn at 2:13 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why is it I come up with all these ideas in the shower?

I'll be the nth person to say it, but I think there's really something for being surrounded by white noise, and the rhythm of the water beating on you that is conducive to letting your mind wander to the places it doesn't normally go. Or, to put it another way, your train of thought can jump tracks a few times without the other parts of your brain trying to step in and 'fix' it.

Of course, I always liked to joke that it was because in the shower my brain was unencumbered by clothes, so it could finally be free enough to think. =)
posted by indiebass at 2:53 PM on June 4, 2009

I had a class called 'Design for Living' or something like that, a loooong time ago, and the prof said being around water (especially moving water) makes you feel good because a lot of negative ions are being generated. Have no idea if this is bunk or not (Mr. Static seems to think so), but maybe look into a negative ion generator? They still make those, right?
posted by Bron at 3:47 PM on June 4, 2009

I have the same experience while walking on my treadmill. My body is engaged in an activity I don't have to actively think about, and unlike walking outside, I don't have to be alert for hazards (sidewalk cracks, etc.). The white noise of the treadmill and the sound of my breathing blocks out other sounds. Since my treadmill is in the basement, the only things I look at are the bare walls and the washer and dryer. So there's nothing left to do except come up with brilliant ideas. I keep a little notebook there just for that purpose.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2009

« Older iPod Touch Recovery   |   Moving to Canada. B4 I go... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.