Thinking in the Shower
November 24, 2005 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Idle Hands Creative Session: So I realized something on my 12 hour drive back home for Thanksgiving... When my senses are preoccupied with mundane stuff like just driving and listening to my iPod on random, I don't have anything left to think about but pure creative concepting. I have to admit that whole drive was filled with one great idea after another. It's the "Great Idea in the Shower" principle. The thing is, I don't really feel like having to drive and spend money on gas or take 6 hour showers, so MeFiers, suggest to me your favorite activities where the body's gone automatic, and all that's left is for the mind to think.

All senses have to be dulled. I don't work as well in Coffeeshops or Parks and the like because I'm preoccupied with people watching or checking out girls. Can't meditate, too hyperactive. Can't sit still at all really.
posted by Stan Chin to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Buy an inexpensive exercise machine? Get in shape and be brilliant at the same time!
posted by Gator at 7:56 PM on November 24, 2005

Well, I can do this in Spin class.
posted by konolia at 7:57 PM on November 24, 2005

I get the same thing from racing video games, at least the good ones.
posted by 517 at 8:03 PM on November 24, 2005

Jogging. Bike trips. Good for the mind, good for the body (provided you've stretched properly and keep just enough attention on traffic and your other surroundings).

Sometimes I can get into this creative mind-state by listening to extremely chill music, like a few of the Pink Floyd albums, or dub, or Banco de Gaia. No, herb is not required.
posted by Tuwa at 8:06 PM on November 24, 2005

Not much of it to do in the winter (other than shoveling snow) but yard work always does it for me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:07 PM on November 24, 2005

Washing dishes by hand, housework, baking.

Long walks, hot baths, cycling.
posted by Jeanne at 8:11 PM on November 24, 2005

Shower time, absolutely - but then I forget if I've rinsed all the shampoo off already.
posted by kokogiak at 8:15 PM on November 24, 2005

Amtrak. Yes, there's a little bit of people-watching, but nothing like a coffee shop.
posted by Aknaton at 8:22 PM on November 24, 2005

I knit. Yeah I'm a man who knits, wanna fight about it?
posted by shanevsevil at 8:31 PM on November 24, 2005

I know this is gross to some, but in college I had this occasional habit of bringing my homework in with me if I knew I'd um.. be a few minutes in the bathroom...

For whatever reason - I got my best work done then... and also have my best ideas then... that and in the shower...
posted by twiggy at 8:40 PM on November 24, 2005

I believe that what you want is to be able to achieve "flow," so meditation is one possibility, or going the Getting Things Done route (with its emphasis on "Mind Like Water," or Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink." I've only started on GTD and neither of the others (although I'm interested in them, too), so I'm only in a position to suggest that GTD could in fact directly address your situation. The basic gist is to systematically 'capture' all your to-do concerns, thus freeing your mind to do other stuff, like being creative.
posted by kimota at 8:45 PM on November 24, 2005

walking, biking, tetris : )
posted by suni at 9:00 PM on November 24, 2005

On the john (but no actual work for me, unlike twiggy), or in bed waiting to sleep.
posted by SuperNova at 9:19 PM on November 24, 2005

Ride a bike.
Do housework.
Have a shitty job. (Probably not something you want to actively seek, but at least menial labour allows you time to think.)
posted by arto at 9:26 PM on November 24, 2005

I keep a pad and paper by the treadmill for this very reason. Also, you are probably a strong kinesthetic learner. Try drawing or writing your ideas on paper. Once I discovered this about myself, I even sometimes write equations or concepts I'm trying to memorize with my finger in the air. Works especially well for definitions.
posted by sid at 9:29 PM on November 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

I do this while hiking.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:38 PM on November 24, 2005

Housework and pool-cleaning does it for me, except that's the only time I can actually listen to Air America (otherwise I'm too distracted). I loved bike riding for this too, when I lived in an environment where that was pleasant.

It is interesting to note, as a child, I did my best learning in school while "playing with things on desk" (quoting a teacher's complaint) or doodling. Amazing how much mileage I got from twirling a ruler on a pencil!
posted by Goofyy at 9:47 PM on November 24, 2005

Aside from showers and long drives by myself (if someone else is there, it doesn't happen at all), riding my bike for 45min on a 15 mile loop near my home, doing the same route every time so that I know every curve and every bump and can ride it on autopilot. All I have to do after a month or so of regular rides is think of a general subject I need to figure out solutions for, and by the end of the ride I have three new ideas for stuff to try.
posted by mathowie at 10:20 PM on November 24, 2005

take a Train to the end of the line and back.. a great way to spend 2-3 hours.. while the train chug-a-chug-a-chugs you utilze the quiet....
posted by Izzmeister at 10:52 PM on November 24, 2005

I used to get a lot out of mowing the lawn, but I'm an apartment-dweller now, and don't have the chance anymore.

My girlfriend does a lot of thinking while looking for four leaf clovers--and she still finds a lot of them--so that's a pretty good hobby, just for the novelty of it.

This past summer, when the time came, both of us did a lot of walking around, talking and thinking, while looking for dead cicadas, which look exactly like live cicadas.

You can do this with anything, really; go for a walk, set your eyes to "find", and think away. You could look for money, or rocks, or anything you're interested in; the thinking will come automatically.

I've heard that vision takes up a great deal of mental energy, and if you "set" your vision to be looking for just one thing, your mind really wanders. In a good way.
posted by interrobang at 10:55 PM on November 24, 2005

Of all the yard work, raking specifically. Because I never have to think about what I'm doing (e.g. which branch to prune), I just have to get all the leaves to their destination.
posted by xo at 10:57 PM on November 24, 2005

jigsaw puzzles. occupy part of your brain with the search for patterns. listen in on the rest of your brain while it spins its wheels sitting idle.
posted by macinchik at 12:20 AM on November 25, 2005

For me, just walking about the City, or out in the country works, particularly if I'm listening to some music on a walkman^WiPod (I'm so hip)... I tend to seed many ideas that way, and have found that having a portable voice recorder (or similar - oh, um, yeah - the iPod) is great for just jotting those ideas down as they come and then getting back to the studio, laying them down and starting to flesh them out.
posted by benzo8 at 2:06 AM on November 25, 2005

That's pretty much why I run... and after you're done, you can take an extra shower and no one will think you're weird.
posted by ph00dz at 2:07 AM on November 25, 2005

+1 on the running - it's a fantastic way to think
posted by TheDonF at 2:30 AM on November 25, 2005

Walking does it for me. Lost track of the amount of good code I've written in my head while walking (the stuff works when I implement it, too).
posted by flabdablet at 3:08 AM on November 25, 2005

I've gotten out of the habit of wearing headphones while walking to class/work across campus, so I think quite a bit about everything on these semi-short walks. In the past I've used them to memorize French verb moods/tenses as well as certain poems or passages from a book for a class. So I also say go for a walk.
posted by vkxmai at 3:24 AM on November 25, 2005

A darkened lecture hall is one of the most creative places I know. I will hear something like "blah, blah, [a word that begets a creative thread], blah, blah, [a thought that makes the initial idea even better], blah. Thank you for coming today..."
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:35 AM on November 25, 2005

Juggling. The Klutz book is a great place to start. Keep going through the initial frustration and try to nail the basic three ball cascade. The effort of maintaining that lovely soothing pattern frees the mind. On a good day, anyway.
posted by freston at 4:37 AM on November 25, 2005

Like "Taken Outtacontext", I got some of my best phd ideas by sitting at conferences all day where only 15% of the things said interested me.
posted by blueyellow at 5:23 AM on November 25, 2005

Most kinds of manual activity do this for me. Knitting, sewing, quilting, are all good, but so is sanding surfaces down, in woodworking projects, or whittling, or painting -- walls, woodwork, whatever. Some of the best and most spacious creative thinking I've ever done was during a summer in which I repainted my entire house. The key thing is that it needs to involve doing a fairly repetitive motion over an unbroken stretch of time, and require just enough low-grade attention to keep the nattering monkey brain occupied.
posted by Kat Allison at 6:16 AM on November 25, 2005

My dishwasher broke and I procrastinated about getting it fixed for about six months. Found that doing dishes was a great way to get your mind wandering. However, it often wandered off in this direction, unfortunately.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:16 AM on November 25, 2005

Did you talk aloud to yourself while thinking? That's an interesting way of developing your thoughts which we are often denied by circumstances
posted by A189Nut at 7:23 AM on November 25, 2005

Knitting is a good one for me. Sadly, so are lectures and classes. I find it tremendously easy to tune out what I'm supposed to be listening to and think about other stuff during those times. Sorting laundry. I also find the minutes in between snooze buttons on a weekend morning to be excellent for that sort of thing. Probably the most useful though is walking, but I have to be going somewhere, not just going for a walk. In the summer, I find the mile between here and Dairy Queen to be ideal thinking time, for example.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:43 AM on November 25, 2005

I was at a diner this morning and the next table over was filled with golfers fresh off the course, and while I've only golfed twice on a small par 3 course, I would think that would be the perfect place to get some creative thinking done. Think about it:

- relaxed atmosphere, out in nature (sorta), total peace and quiet

- lots and lots of walking

- tons of dead time between a few seconds of concentrating while you do the swing

I bet a quick trip to the ol' pitch-n-putt by yourself would do wonders.
posted by mathowie at 10:48 AM on November 25, 2005

Dishwashing for sure. I think all great philosphers were dishwashers at one time or another.
posted by Mitheral at 11:38 AM on November 25, 2005

I do really good thinking at orchestra concerts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:18 PM on November 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

surprised no-one's mentioned it, but sleeping works for me. go to sleep; wake up with a solution.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:53 AM on November 26, 2005

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