Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bathroom Revelations

I often reiterate here on my blog that inspiration does not come by willpower. Well, it also seems true that inspiration does not come in the most predictable places. And before I go any further, let me clarify that by "bathroom" revelations, I do not mean on the toilet. I think that seems important to clarify right away, in effort to retain some dignity here! It seems that so often in the last month, when I am at the sink in my bathroom washing my face, brushing my teeth, washing my hands, getting ready for work, or in the shower...I have all these mini revelations.

These revelations seem to be sparks of creative thought. You know, I have never been an idea writer. By this, I mean that I have never been of the creative mind in which ideas/major plotlines for stories or such come to mind readily or abundantly. In fact, I almost never have plot ideas. Instead, I have these mini revelations...thoughts that usually come in the form of a sentence or simple phrase. I call them revelations because despite being a feeling or thought that may have been subconsciously apparent to me, the way in which I perceive of them becomes an "aha" moment, in which I look at that idea or thought in a particular (and often dramatic) way. And this is how my inspiration comes. And a lot of the time, they truly are "mini" in that I do not think of them as prominent moments of enlightenment (although, those come at times too) but just thoughts and inspiration that seem noteworthy.

Having these mini revelations in the bathroom doesn't necessarily seem ridiculous to me, given that I have a small studio apartment and there really are a limited number of places in which these thoughts might occur. But I always thought that of all the places at home, being in bed would produce more of these revelations, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all. In fact, when I get in bed at night, I almost find myself irritated with the thoughts that do dominate. And perhaps that is why I don't sleep well. Anyway, what does make this odd is the fact that I will literally be standing at my sink, brushing my teeth or something and when I have one of these thoughts/mini revelations, I will walk maybe five or six feet to my desk to write said revelation down, and I can't. It loses its robustness in that very brief walk through my closet. When I'm standing there at the sink, it seems so lucid and profound to me. And when I write it down or stare at the sheet of paper, it just doesn't release itself from my mind. Yet, this shouldn't be surprising to any writer, really. That transference from mind to paper often proves onerous.

But even that fact doesn't upset me. Even if I don't manage to articulate these thoughts on paper, my bathroom has taken on somewhat of a magical aura now, and I appreciate the irony of such.


Randal Graves said...

I wonder if it's because your conscious mind carries no pressure there. It's the bathroom, it's not for thinking, it's not for creativity, but the mundane actions of brushing teeth and hair, cleaning the face, etc. And because there isn't that psychic pressure we bring upon ourselves in other places - because we have to be inspired in bed or at our desk - the ideas come easier.

And please, keep a notepad in the bathroom in the future. I completely sympathize with the degradation of an idea from initial spark to penning - which takes seconds, what the hell, brain! - but better than walking 5-10 feet where there's even more of a chance of losing it. :)

Run Around Paris said...

That's funny...the same sort of mini-revalations happen to me too, sometimes...but almost always when I'm in bed for the night and too tired to reach for pen and paper. Then I think to myself, that's ok - I'll just jot these things down in the morning. Now at this point, you'd probably figure that by morning I would forget whatever it was that hit me the night before, but no. It's just that usually by the morning, those same revalations don't seem nearly as pressing - or appealing.

La Belette Rouge said...

Jungian Analyst, Maria von Franz, claimed that the bathroom symbolically represents the "Self." (In Jungian parlance, the Self is an archetype akin to God). If that is the case it makes sense why the bathroom is often the place of creative transcendence. I had a writing professor who instructed that when blocked the best things to do are: shower, drive or go for a long walk.

I agree with Randal! You have to keep a notebook in the loo---or, at least a pen that can write on toilet paper. Even lipstick on the mirror will do.

b said...

randal...i think there is a lot to the routine action of brushing teeth, face, etc. you're right... there is not pressure in those daily activities and they allow me to just be. and that act of just being seems the most inspiring in life. and yes, at my desk or before bed (i swear bedtime has become a less desirable time for me anymore), i feel that pressure considerably. and yes, that "degradation" (aptly put) of an idea happens so quickly. i'll try keeping a notepad in there but part of me worries that in doing so, the pressure will find its way into the bathroom as well, and maybe i enjoy just keeping that spot "pure." does that make sense?

run around paris...hi! so good to hear from you again. yes, i also empathize with your experience here. there have even been aha moments in the middle of the night and i have gotten up and written them down, only to find in the morning that the idea doesn't seem as brilliant to me as it did in that stupor of dreaming/battling the sub-conscious while sleeping. and i wonder what happens to make us feel either way: that the idea was so brilliant or that it lost appeal. peculiar.

la belette rouge... that is very interesting and seems to be an appropriate analysis for my experience. many of my revelations truly are based in self analysis, feeling, perception. it is also interesting that you mention those activities when blocked; they all seem to help me. as of late, i've been wanting to take a long drive. i used to drive from my university to the coast when i felt blocked or melancholy and that beautiful, windy road was so inspiring. and something about the physical journey just makes you feel some kind of progress. haha. i like the lipstick on the mirror thing. i would probably do that too if my mirror weren't so small! :)

Randal Graves said...

b, that makes perfect sense, but is there not an inherent danger in creativity itself? If you want to conquer a new realm, i.e. the bathroom, be prepared for the consequences. :)

LBR, I hate getting an idea in the shower precisely because I don't keep any writing instruments in the bathroom so I have to repeat it over and over until I can rush the hell out of there. Perhaps I'll just grab my wife's lipstick and write on that mirror. :)

b said...

randal... i'm glad you left this comment. you are right about there being an inherent danger in creativity itself. if i do conquer that new realm, what will be the consequence? i'm sure my psyche will find a new place to do its magic, then. so, why not embrace it, right?

yeah, the shower is tricky for sure. i'm sure your wife really wouldn't mind your using her lipstick! :)

Richard said...

Don't you just hate the way the power of your idea, of your feelings turns into a few trite words on a page that fail to capture even the barest essence of what you experienced? I know I do.

I jot mine into a running Word document. There is nothing coherent about it, it is just a jumble of sentences, paragraphs and other fragments.

In the ethereal mind's eye they are powerful; on the page they are anaemic.

b said...

richard...yes, it is a bit infuriating. more than anything, it just baffles me somewhat. i tend to write on slips of paper, post it notes, etc. and have them all thrown loosely into a box or notebook. there is definitely nothing coherent to mine, either! anemic, indeed.

La Page Française said...

Great post and really interesting comments, that's so true that maybe if you had a notebook and pen near the bathroom, that would maybe bring on the pressure and then that spot would not longer be pure. That makes sense. I sometimes have this great idea of going to a cafe and imagining myself all intellectual and writing great ideas down. I usually end up just staring at a blank page. Then I go home and do the dishes, and while I'm doing the dishes is when I'll have some great random revelation. Like the problem of the shower, it's very inconvenient since I have to put down the soapy sponge and dry my hands and run for a piece of paper and pen. But go figure. I guess there is something to be said about having ideas during mundane activities.

b said...

la page française...i know. i'm torn about the paper and pen in the bathroom. lately, i've really been looking forward to those moments (and they seem truly abundant) in which i have those revelations and feel inspired but without an urge to make that inspiration productive. i totally empathize with your café experience as well...great example! i go through the same thing there, too. i get my coffee, find a cozy spot, and get lost in people watching and enjoying the scenery but never manage to write anything down. i really think that those mundane daily activities truly do take pressure off the creative aspect of ourselves and when relaxed, it is just there. it does figure, doesn't it? the most profound moments seem to be the simplest.

carra said...

Those moments come to me everywhere, as long as I haven't got the book with me. I have spent so many sleepless nights writing, just because some idea was literally torturing me, to find the whole thing rather absurd in the morning. I must admit, all of my best stuff is written at those times, you can imagine what rubbish I write when I am focused! Keep a notepad in the bathroom or acquire a Dictaphone!

Cassoulet Cafe said...

I'm so glad you commented on my blog, so I could discover yours! I know this is an older post, but I just had to comment and say that I get my best ideas in the shower. And lots of times, they go down the drain with the water, because they suddenly lose their "genius" after I get out and open the laptop.
Cassoulet Cafe was born in my mind in the shower...seriously. :) How many times I've skipped shaving my legs to get out and get it in writing!

b said...

Cassoulet Cafe... Thank you SO much for coming by my blog. I recently came across several of your comments on other blogs and was so intrigued by your kindness and thoughtfulness that I was excited to discover your blog as well!

I am glad that you can relate to this post. It is so funny how that happens. The shower is a challenging place to have those moments... as you really are not able to easily get those thoughts down on paper and once you start thinking about how to do that at all, the moment seems lost, doesn't it? For me, even just walking from the sink to my desk (a VERY short walk) causes a break in that thought. But then, I wonder if maybe the thought is something that I comprehend and am inspired by in my own head but when faced with communicating that thought, it just isn't there?! Oh, tortured writers we are!

Wow... your blog was born in the shower?! Well, I think we are all grateful that idea made its way to your computer! ;-)

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Oh my goodness, I thought I had replied back but I see that I did not.
Merci BEAUCOUP for your wonderful (and much needed at this time) compliments.
I look forward to reading more of your posts as they come in and make the journey with you on your blog to realize your dream of living in France.
Sometimes I am slow to post even though I have read the entries. For this I'll apologize in advance. ;)
Now, I need to get in the shower so my next post comes to me, haha!