One Weird Trick to Break Through Writer's Block
You've probably seen the hashtags or reddit threads where people post their "shower thoughts." Many of them are quite funny, but there are also a large number that are highly imaginative. It's as if the shower is one of the few places we've created in our busy society where creative thinking thrives naturally. When we attempt a creative endeavor we sometimes run into dead-ends in our thinking. You might be having trouble writing lyrics to express an idea or maybe you can't decide how to tie up some confusing plot lines. It's classic writer's block. How do you get over writer's block? Well, I recommend you take a shower.
It's been said that writer's block is best overcome by writing. In other words, just write something—anything—even if it's not great until it gives you an idea that overcomes the block. I think that advice is largely true. If followed, I think it can overcome most of the troubles creatives encounter. But sometimes your brain just needs a break to really process the problem without the pressure to solve it. In those times, why not take a shower? I don't recommend a hot, right-before-bed shower, but a slightly cool comfortable one to get your creative brain working again.
The shower effect is helpful for a number of reasons. First, you are alone with your thoughts. That reduces distraction and helps you focus on a single idea. Secondly, the sensory experience helps calm your brain. The water running through the pipes and onto the tile provides the perfect white noise to block out distractions. And finally, you are in a safe place where you can relax and mentally try out new ideas. Presumably, nobody is going to be there to hear them and laugh at you. Taking a shower is a relief for your senses and your mind which allows your brain to relax and focus at the same time.
Here's a real life example. The other day I was in the shower and realized I was humming the music I had just been working on. It occurred to me that without even trying I was attempting and developing new ideas with the melody. I was subconsciously still working on my music without the stress of feeling like "I have to figure this out." It reminds me of the way your brain can work things out during sleep. I remember once not being able to play a Dohnányi piano finger exercise I had been assigned. I practiced it the first day, but my brain just couldn't explain to my hands how to do it. Magically, the next day I could play the exercise with little effort. It was as if my brain had worked on the problem while I was asleep. Similarly, I think this is what taking a shower allows your brain to do. It gives you space to relax and process.
There are certainly other ways you can relax and let your brain do its work. Take a walk, or do a mindless chore like laundry. Anything that takes the focus off of the exact problem you are facing can help. Don't get into the shower and pressure yourself to come up with a solution before you're done. Just allow yourself to relax. When you've finished, come back to the problem and see if you have a new perspective on it.
Whether you're a writer, a composer, or any other type of creator, your brain usually needs time to process what you are doing. Give your brain that time by doing something mindless. Don't rush it, but trust that your brain will come up with some kind of solution. The next time you are feeling stressed because you can't figure out the next plot point or the best chord to choose, take a break and head to the shower. Your brain will likely handle the rest.