Eureka! Time to Think

Honest to gawd, the idea for my current project came to me in a dream. Well, more specifically, I woke up from a dream, had the idea, thought “Hmm, that’s clever,” and promptly fell back asleep. In the shower the next morning, the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. Over the next month, I thought about it in the car, in the bathroom (oh, c’mon, you think a lot in there, too), and on walks. In all of these places, the idea fused with others and outline-y characters began to show themselves and the plot – or  a “plot” – began to gel. The ideas flowed while I stared out of windows or when I listened to music in a coffee shop. Shoot, I was probably the mousey dude staring at his keyboard, when I suddenly pointed to the sky, smiled, and started clacking away – just a montage away from a perfect manuscript.

So what can I say about where I get my best ideas, other than the typical rom-com conceptions of where writers find their muse. Or is it something else? Even Archimedes had to take a bath in order to devise how displacement, volume, and density are related (oops, sorry for the geek out). Maybe all these places actually do help to generate ideas in a grand majority of humans. But what is it about a steamy shower that gets the gray matter juices flowing?

Of course to really dig into it, I’m sitting here at *bux, listening to my favorite blog-writing playlist. In fact, I just maxed out the volume because there’s this really loud group next to me and it’s impossible to hear myself think…

*pointer to the roof*
*big, big grin*
*dives for the keyboard*

It’s not the location, per say, but the situation that the location provides! Walks, nature, music, comfy writing chairs, etc…all let us shut out the rest of the world. They quiet the noise badgering us – they’re secure – they let us…wait for it…actually think.

And what’s even crazier: often, within a matter of seconds of this calmness, we find we already have all these ideas like they were waiting there, ripe and ready for harvest. See, our minds are ridiculously powerful things that are working behind the scenes while we grocery shop or fill the gas tank (if you can afford to do that these days). The problem is that there’s so much daily chatter and distraction, that it’s only when we focus on ourselves that we can find out what our brains have really been working on.

Sometimes in writing or work or life, the sheer volume of problems we have to think about is overwhelming. It seems like there’ll never be enough time to figure it all out. But, with this recent insight, here’s what I’ve been trying:

  1. Identify specifically what you need to be thinking about – questions, issues, unformed concepts. Write them down, type them out, or repeat them several times. Don’t worry about finding a solution yet. Just focus on the issue you want to solve. This is priming your subconscious on what to work on.
  2. Go about your life. Sleep on it. Go to work. Pay those bills.
  3. Literally, if you have a free second, restate the problem – but don’t be tempted by answer finding until you have a bigger chunk of time.
  4. Finally, get yourself in a location where you can listen to your thoughts – places without distraction. If you don’t know what works for you, just run through the list of clich├ęs you’ve seen in movies about writers getting ideas, and try those.
  5. Once you’re there, focus again on the problem statement, but this time let the solutions start to come and keep’em coming.
  6. If you still haven’t figured out what you need to, finish the brainstorm by reiterating the problem statement and try again later.

In what sort of places are you able to hear yourself think?


One of the worst feelings in the world is remembering that you had a glimmer of a great idea, but not ... quite ... being ... able to recapture it.

One of the other worst feelings in the world is wearing cotton/cayenne pepper blend jockey shorts.

So that's where ideas come from--the bathroom! Shower, bath, ahem. You'd think my husband was Shakespeare by now! But seriously, tuning out life, and listening. What if there is the little voice inside telling you you're wasting your time, you'll never be good enough. How do you shut her up? That's the non supporters in my life. Did you have any? How did you not listen to them?


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