My Office

I am obsessed. I am obsessed with Anne Lamott’s wondrous book Bird By Bird. I am also obsessed with the word “wondrous” because I have used it no fewer than 65,936 times in the last week, and I have no intentions of retiring it from my vocabulary just yet. Lamott has given me the kick in the rear I have been needing to just write like a mofo and give myself away to words and things and the saying of the say. I’m in the middle of a spell of cognizant automatic writing right now. Since I’m a blogger, though, I guess you could call it Automattic writing.

*Crickets.*

Moving on.

The entire book is quotable. I have underlined nearly the whole thing, which totally defeats the purpose of underlining anything at all because there are maybe now two sentences left in the book that are virginal and unsullied by my markings.

One thing Lamott talks about is programming your mind to think and to write on command. She says that you have to train your brain to deliver that thought stream around the same time every day. Our stomachs consistently get hungry midday because we’ve organized our day around lunch, and in much the same way we have to carve out a specific, consistent time to write each day. It signals to our body and our mind that it’s time to get down to business.

That time, for me, is shower time.

DSC08770 (2)

My office

Oh, shower time, how I have wrestled with you. The bathroom became my studio when I was pregnant. This post was very literally born there, making it the baby I birthed in the toilet. (I know, TMI. And gross.) I would get in the shower and just zone out and plan what I wanted to talk about. Then C came along. She accompanied me in the bathroom while I showered each morning, sitting in her little Rock ‘N Play. When she was tiny, the rushing of the water would zonk her out, but as her naps became more consolidated to two distinct periods of the day which did not coincide with my shower time, she would scream and yell while I lathered up. I would have to sing Baby Beluga for the entirety of my office hours, and I couldn’t let my mind brainstorm when there was a baby who was screaming at me.

Some people can slice up their attention like that and satiate dual demands. I am not one of them.

However, that magical one-year mark has remade my C into a child who plays amicably by herself during my showers. Much like the writer’s mind, she knows what to do when I deposit her in her playpen in my bedroom because she expects it every day. She knows it’s time for solitary play, and my brain starts firing on cue.

What is it about the shower that makes me get in that space of thought? It’s not the privacy, as C has made me wave the white flag of bodily discretion for the next several years. It is likely the monotony of my routine in there. Wash face, spit out mouthwash, wash hair, condition hair, wash body. I’ve been doing it this way for years and I don’t have to think about it. It’s cathartic and compulsory. I’m tempted to call it liturgical but that’s a bit too heavy-handed and showering me vetoes that word choice.

Office mates

Office mates

The walls of the shower are enclosed and the sounds of running water get me to that place where my mind can roam free. Since I can’t write down anything while I’m in there, the ideas that survive a thorough towel-drying are usually stronger. They are often the ones you see fleshed out here.

I am grateful for my bathroom. Have I jumped the shark by admitting it? Probably. Am I becoming insufferable by choosing to write about my shower? Most definitely. But it’s in the mundane that I am learning to take solace. It means something to me. I don’t live a particularly exciting life, but my mind can dream up fantastic things when I will it to.

The rubber duckies speak to me.

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40 comments

  1. I’ve always done my best thinking in the shower. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s the sound of the flowing water or the feel of the water. Whatever, my head seems to clear and I can solve all sorts of problems in the shower.

    1. It really is a very soothing place! I shower in the morning when my brain is already firing at all cylinders. Timing is everything.

  2. Automattic. I laughed.

    1. I’m glad at least one person got that.

      1. I did. It was pretty good, too.

  3. I love “Bird by Bird,” Emily. I think I’ll get it out of the library and reread it this summer! I get a lot of my ideas while running – but I think it’s a somewhat similar effect to your shower. That body-centered activity gets us out of the mundane – day-to-day thoughts and into a more holistic, global place where new ideas can flow like the movement of running or the flow of the water. And you could start a new weekly post called “Rubber Duckie Wisdom!”

    1. Isn’t it the best book!? My best friend (a writer also) sent it to me as my own little gift for C’s first birthday. It is completely perfect and so much of what Ms. Lamott says rings true for me.

      You are totally right about the mind-body connection. I do my brainstorming in the shower, but when I take C out for a long walk in her stroller each day, I also carry a pad with me where I write ideas down.

  4. So true! And because all my best writing epiphanies have occurred in the shower, I’ve been wondering lately about which would be easier to invent–a miniaturized, rubberized, waterproofed desk, chair and PC that would fit in the shower, or a type of self-contained shower suit that I could wear while seated at my desk in the family room. I’m envisioning a space suit-type thing with an elevated hood that circulates a warmed stream of water from above that pools in an attached pan at my feet and is then pumped back to the hood. Of course, there are many details to work out, but if I don’t take my medication for a few days, I’m sure they’ll come to me.

    1. Um, I would TOTALLY buy that, Willow! It would actually work really well for people with tons of roommates and only one bathroom. Just zip on your shower suit and get clean in the privacy of your own room!

  5. twindaddy · · Reply

    I’m always struck with ideas while I’m driving. Then, when I get home, I’ve completely forgotten about them. I need to get my phone ready to record so I can record the ideas as I’m driving, but then I don’t remember to do that until I’ve had an idea and by then it’s too late. Oh, well…

    1. For me, I think of ideas when I’m walking, dog leash in one hand, son’s hand in the other. When I’m lucky, I even remember them long enough to put them down on paper.
      In the shower, I’m lucky if I remember if I’ve washed my hair. No creativity flowing in there.

      1. Ha! There have been times when I have actually forgotten to wash my hair because I’m so focused on something else. Good times, good times. I love the image of you holding your dog’s leash and your son’s hand ;D

    2. My dad used to keep a pad of paper on the dashboard of his car so he could write down ideas as they came to him. He was a really, really bad driver.

      1. twindaddy · · Reply

        Ha! Yeah, when I think of something I remember that my phone is in my pocket and I don’t feel like dying just to get it out to record my idea.

  6. Might have to read the book. Right now, I’m reading Your Life as Story. Actually, I should say my night stand is reading it. I am reading a crappy vampire romance novel. What can I say.

    1. You should read it! It is probably the best nonfiction book I’ve read in years. I really loved it. But finish the vampire book first.

  7. My writing place is on my bike – I wish I was as clever in my writing as I am in my mind on my bike!

    1. Omgosh. I am a freaking GENIUS when I’m thinking. When I go to write, I’m like, “Words words hjdshfkjdhlfhaskjd.”

      1. We need a brain to processor something or other!

  8. I LOVE “Bird by Bird.” It’s not only amazing advice, but it’s such poetic writing. Good choice!

    I get good ideas anywhere I can’t write them down. In bed right before sleep. In the shower. While driving. My brain’s always doing something it’s not supposed to.

    1. It is SUCH good writing! While I was reading it, I felt like my writing got more poetic and lyrical too. Then, I got to the part where she talks about finding your voice and how she can always tell when her students are reading XYZ writer because they totally start copying XYZ’s style. Wop-waaaaaaa. I am such a wannabe.

  9. Shower time definitely should not be wasted. I use mine in a similar way to you, to develop skills and ideas and, for me, to work on my future career. Hence, I sing loudly and break out some funky dance moves. So I totally get what you’re saying here.

    1. It is really important to use every moment to develop our amazing moves. Just don’t slip on the soap.

  10. Melanie · · Reply

    Ah, the shower…the warmth, the white noise, the routine that requires no thought so other thoughts are free to roam the blank spaces. Also falling to sleep at night and long road trips. When I spark onto something good in the shower, I find myself repeating those few words over and over until they become solid, and I add more and more until I feel like I have a good grasp on my epiphany. Then the water turns cold.

    1. I LOVE that moment when I’m falling asleep and I have one foot in cognizance and the other in dreamland. And not just because I like to think about making gocarts with my ex-landlord.
      PS Your comment is a pretty little post in itself. Where can I find your blog?

      1. Melanie · · Reply

        I actually have two blogs. One is fun (http://thisismycorn.wordpress.com/) and one is therapy (http://deliberatedonkey.wordpress.com/).

        1. Ah! OK! I know you ;)

      2. Melanie · · Reply

        Oh, yeah, the rest of what you said…duh.
        That moment right before I make the turn from awake to asleep is full of fruitful ideas. Sometimes those turn into dreams, and sometimes those dreams are some of the best ones.

  11. I must say, I much prefer baths to showers. I could spend all day in a bath, yet for some reason I want to spend as little time as possible in the shower!
    Fun fact: our house didn’t even have a real shower when we moved in. (just one of those shower hose attachments with the tub that we snaked up the wall and had to use for far too long until we got a real bathroom!)

    1. Baths are so dreamy. I haven’t had one in ages. I really need to remedy that!

  12. Love Anne Lamott, and need to revisit Bird by Bird. It’s been too long! Almost all of my posts write themselves in my head first… following me around, until I type them out. Love that your office is your shower! :-)

    1. It is SO GOOD, but I guess I established myself as a complete fangirl in the post. My best friend gave it to me as a gift for C’s first birthday. (I know, she’s the best.) If you ever want to read it again, I will read it along with you!

  13. I love this. I am so happy you are liking the book and that it’s useful. And I love your office, and am happy your office-mate allows you to enjoy it. :) Julia Cameron calls times like that, when we’re doing something so repetitive that we don’t have to think about it, artist brain time. I love it:)

    1. I am so grateful that you gave it to me! It has really helped me rethink what it is to be a writer. I feel a lot more disciplined and motivated to do good work since I read it. Julia Cameron sounds like a solid human. I will love her too.

  14. Your excitement and enthusiasm is infectious. I love Ann Lamott. I do the same thing while I’m reading inspirational books. I underline to the point of ridiculousness. Every word becomes gold. Lol! I love writing in my books. Some people think that’s the worst thing a person can do, like it’s a crime. I imagine Lily and my son looking through my books when I’m long gone and finding little bits of wisdom or my many questions, pieces of me, always looking for the truth. I think they’ll be happy that I wrote in my books.
    Anyway, I’m rambling. I’m away on Vay Cay– back in a week!
    Keep writing!
    Lisa

    1. My favorite professor in the entire world used to constantly say that you have to actively read, and that means you have to graffiti up your books. It makes them looked lived-in and feel like their yours. Ben hates it when I write all over our books since he’s a curmudgeon (and holy crizap, when he sees me fold their spines he has a near conniption) but I tend to believe that books are for using and adopting and being made my own. The object isn’t precious but the words are.

      Have a wonderful week, Lisa! ;D

      1. Melanie · · Reply

        I graffiti up my books too – both the paper book and the ebooks. There are underlines and notes all over all of them. It’s the only way to read.

  15. Oh the joys of sharing a bathroom. With two kids I am now down to 2 min rinses while i sit in an empty tub.

  16. I read this back when and never commented. I think of awesome blog posts in the shower and then as soon as the water gets turned off, they go down the drain. I need a little midget scribe placed in my shower. A blind one.

  17. […] My Office (notthehardestpart.com) […]

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