Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

How I Ruined a Perfectly Good Pen in the Shower, or The Creativity Sponge


A sponge and bucket surrounded by bubbles.Tivity says I’m being too informative and not entertaining enough. So, I shall attempt to rectify this by explaining how I ruined a perfectly good pen in the shower.

I have long hair, and it takes me ages to wash. And usually, during hair washing, I come up with some of my best ideas. Which is really annoying. Why? Because I have no access to pen and paper. Thinking about it, one could probably scrawl something on the mist covered glass of the shower, but I don’t think that’s the most reliable means of preserving genius.

My method for idea preservation is repeating the idea to myself over and over until I’m dry and can find writing implements. However, on the day in question, I got distracted; probably by shampoo in the eye or someone turning the dishwasher on and instantly relieving me of the hot water.

And so this is why I found myself some fifteen minutes later, fully clothed, sitting on the shower stool with pen and paper trying to mentally recreate the moment I had my idea. That’s also the point where I dropped the pen and discovered ball point down on tiles is not healthy.

(Now do you understand why I’m the informative one and Creativity’s the story-teller?)

This seemingly random story does have a purpose. I get my best ideas and connect with my Creativity the strongest when I’m in the shower. I have a relative who had the idea for a brilliant invention while on the toilet. I have two closer family members who get ideas walking from their desk to the toilet or the water fountain.

What do all these places have in common, apart from the obvious ablution factor?

Notice they are not the desk, or in front of the computer, or while staring at a blank piece of paper, or while being stared at by a boss or teacher or mother. They are alone time. Stress free time. Time when no one is expecting you to fix the situation, to find the solution, to solve the unsolvable. And that’s the time when you get the flash of inspiration.

And this brings me to one of my favourite quotes of all time:

“Your most brilliant ideas come in a flash, but the flash comes only after a lot of hard work. Nobody gets a big idea when he is not relaxed, and nobody gets a big idea when he is relaxed all the time.” – Edward Blakeslee

Why Is It So?

Imagine, for a moment, your Creativity is a sponge. (Tiv says she’s a purple sponge with green polka dots. I’ll leave you to erase that disturbing image from your mind on your own. I’m stuck with it.) Now imagine you are lowering your Creativity sponge into a bucket of special idea-inducing water. She soaks it up with gusto. Now, you pull your sponge out of the bucket and squeeze. Lovely ideas, concepts, jokes, random hilarity etc. drip everywhere. Life is good.

Next, without releasing your hand, stick the sponge back in the bucket. Pull the sponge out and squeeze again. Notice that far less creative goodness comes out this time?

If you’re holding the sponge tightly, no matter how much water you immerse it in, the sponge won’t soak it up – and therefore will not have anything to give you when you squeeze.

Where Am I Going With This?

When you need an idea, you squeeze your Creativity. She bursts forth with all the amazing brilliance you know and love. However, as you become more stressed you’ll notice her productivity begins to drop. You’re squeezing her for ideas, but she’s got nothing left to give. That’s what the dyspeptic haddock look is telling you. You need to let go, give her some breathing room and an opportunity to absorb more idea juice.

How long does that take? It really depends on the Creativity, and the problem. Sometimes it takes minutes. Sometimes days. But relaxing and providing Creativity with breathing room is a very important part of the creative process. Do not rush it, and do not squeeze too early. Be prepared to relax. This is not slacking off! It is giving your Creativity sponge time to refresh. And it is just as important, if not more so, than the squeezing step.

(Note to parents, teachers, friends, employers: If you happen to see your child, student, friend or employee staring into space, or walking aimlessly around when they should be working on a problem, resist the urge to shake them back to reality and force them into a ‘working’ frame of mind. They are most probably communing with their inner sponge…er…Creativity, whether they consciously realise it or not. At times, it’s that little moment of blankness, of daydream, that provides the inspiration for what they’re about to do. Not always, but sometimes. So give them the benefit of the doubt, at least once, and see what happens. You might get to watch that wonderful moment where Creativity sparks and ideas are born.)

What about you? Where or when do you get your brilliant flashes? Please share. We’d love to know.


Author: Jessica

I'm a writer who refuses to pin myself down to one genre, hopping from science-fiction and fantasy through to literary and even the odd western now and then. Check out what I've written at or follow me on Twitter @jessbaverstock.

18 thoughts on “How I Ruined a Perfectly Good Pen in the Shower, or The Creativity Sponge

  1. Informative – and entertaining – in one post 😉

    My Creativity is a bit unpredictable – and seems determined to avoid pen-available moments (i.e., on walks with the dog, in the middle of the night after I’ve snuggled into bed, shower). Brat.

    • You too? It’s like she’s got pen radar or something.

      It seems we are not alone in this frustration, and it may be solvable. Check out this site for a shower notepad.

      Everything can be solved for money, right? Although, perhaps the sight of a notepad might scare the ideas away…

      I’m glad you were entertained. 🙂

  2. I think Tivity needs one of those astronaut pens that can write upside down and under water. Or a cheaper option might be some of those childrens bath markers designed to make bathtime so much fun.

    The marker is your tool. The shower your canvas.

    Personally I get floods of good ideas just before falling asleep and when walking. I don’t mean a little jaunt around the block, I mean a good long walk, the kind when you usually only have keys and a water bottle. Never leave home without a pocket pen.

  3. Absolutely kindred spirit! Why?

    1) The only way I can re-create and PERHAPS re-find the flash of brilliance that struck all too briefly is to return to the place where it struck. And how amazing that it happened to you

    2) in the shower! The shower is where I’ve composed most of my songs!

    I was going to say that my creativity has been in hibernation for some time, but I realize that it has moved me in other directions during the past year.

    For a year now, my inspiration has found another place and method. My year-long insomnia has found me tossing and turning and finally reaching for my bedside table for the cell phone. In its notepad feature, I find a place for all the overwhelming thoughts and myriads of memories that are keeping me awake. Being able to “write it down” has kept me sane. (Okay, okay, semi-sane. *grin*)

    Terrific blog, Jessica!

    • Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment MH! 🙂

      It wasn’t until I wrote this article and then did some pottering around the net that I realised how many people are struck with ideas in the shower. Seems it’s a common occurrence.

      Sorry to hear about your insomnia. At least you’re finding uses for it, and keeping semi-sane is a big enough feat on its own!

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. Please pop back soon.

  4. Wonderful post!! I love analogies and use them quit often myself when I’m trying to explain something. I think when someone can visualize your message, they understand it better. Your sponge analogy is a perfect way to describe how we sometimes push ourselves (or are pushed by others) too hard.

    Even our cars need to stop at a gas station at times to refuel, so why shouldn’t our creativity?

    Speaking of cars, that seems to be when I come up with my ideas. When I’m driving down the interstate at 70+ miles per hour. If someone is with me, I will ask them to write it down. If not, I either stop as soon as possible and write it down myself, or use the recorder on my iPod or Blackberry to capture the creativity.

    Another time when I seem to come up with the “Big Idea” most is when I’m working on another project. Something just sparks and there it is.

    Creativity . . . you gotta love it!!

    • Thanks for your comment, Kim! 🙂 Good point about refueling our cars. In fact, most useful things need replenishing from time to time.

      I try to avoid coming up with ideas when driving because I get too distracted by the new thoughts. But you’re right, ideas do often come while driving. I wonder whether it’s because we’re exposed to so many interesting object, words, colours etc. in very quick succession. In the process of taking it all in, connections are made and ideas erupt.

  5. Creativity strikes ANYWHERE INCONVENIENT…and occasionally in a convenient spot here or there. Her favorite…particularly for songs or poems, which are difficult to remember for any length of time…is driving in the car – preferably a long drive in heavy traffic with nowhere to pull over. I’ve been known to write on napkins at stoplights, or to find an off-ramp to an unknown location when I’m already running late to scribble down important ideas/lyrics/poems. Why??? Because I’ve also been known to compose entire brilliant songs that would live on to time immemorial, if only they hadn’t been forgotten by the time I reached my destination! *aaarrggghhh!!!*

    • hahahaha! I wrote the above without reading the previous comments! I knew there were a lot of creative shower people (Creativity likes it there too), but I didn’t realize us car-driven (pun intended) Creative-masochistically-teaming-up-with-Murphy-plagued types were so common!

      • Haha. Yes, you are not alone in this problem. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this blog, it’s that other people’s Creativities have similar habits and tics.

        And one must always record ideas if at all possible, otherwise they disappear so quickly. There’s nothing worse than knowing you had any idea and not being able to recall it.

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