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.
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.
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.
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.