Writers. Do you have it? That one location where creative ideas breed like rabbits?
Otherwise known as Ideasville.
And just for the record – Ideasville is not the desk. The desk is a dark, cold and terrible place where in the normal course of things, mental graft and the grind take over from magic. At least that’s how it works for me. Maybe it’s different for other people and if so, how do you do that?
Think of Ideasville as being like those little islands in Japan that are inhabited mostly by cats. Thousands and thousands of cats. Well replace cats with creative ideas and there you go – Ideasville. I’m talking about that one place where no matter what, it’s always possible to get inspired. Where the magic happens consistently.
And for me, it’s the shower.
It goes like this – I step into the bathroom and close the shower door. I stand under the warm running water and yes! Here it comes. The breakthrough that’s been evading me for so long (or at least since the last shower!)
It’s not the little ideas that come to me in the shower either. Usually it’s the good ones, the important ones, the ones that will make a real difference. That’s the beauty of Ideasville – it rarely stops at a single eureka moment. Just as the first idea is settling in, another one appears literally out of nowhere.
I haven’t even picked up the bar of soap yet.
But what is it about the shower that inspires me so? Think about your own Ideasville – what are the main ingredients/conditions of that place that make it work for you?
Keith Richards once said that ideas for songs were floating around in the atmosphere, just waiting to come down to us. Keith did a lot of drugs of course, but I think he’s right and that this applies to stories too. I don’t think we can force ourselves upon these ideas – they come to us when they’re ready. This reminds of me a quote that I wrote down a long time ago. This one’s attributed to Mozart:
‘It is when I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone and of good cheer…that ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come I know not, nor can I force them.’
Alone and of good cheer? Does that work for you and your Ideasville? That sure sounds like me in the shower. Most people are happy in the shower though aren’t they? That’s why we have a tendency to stay in there for longer than we should and sing songs at the top of our voices even if when we sing we sound like (and I’m stealing this) a dog barking into a bucket.
Thinking back to Mozart’s quote, perhaps we’re at our most creative when we’re in a state of relaxation. I feel particularly at ease in the shower. I can shut the door and when I turn on the water I turn off the world. At least for five minutes. No phone. No music. No podcast playing in the background on a loudspeaker – nothing but the sound of water and silence.
Solitude is also good for creativity – that’s no secret of course. It’s hard to be creative when there’s too much noise going on in your life. Recently my parents came from Scotland to visit my wife and I in Australia. They were staying in our house for a few weeks and I took a break from writing and editing and marketing. I did normal things – like going out and all that stuff. It was fun, but I noticed during that time that my brain stopped working like a writer. I didn’t have a single idea over that three week period. Nothing. I barely thought about the creative side of writing and I was rarely alone.
Three weeks later my parents returned to Scotland. My wife went back to work. I was alone again in the house (apart from the animals). I took a shower, completely relaxed and by myself. As I turned the metal lever, the water started flowing again and so did the ideas – almost immediately in fact.
Solitude and relaxation.
Eureka. I was back in Ideasville.