Saturday, 5 September 2009

Inspiration and long, hot baths

When do you get your best ideas? You know the solution to your novel's current problem is there, somewhere in your deep subconscious, laid down by a lifetime's observation and thought; but sometimes it's hard to get at it.

An idling brain seems to work best. Driving a familiar route is good, if you are alone. I've often pulled over to jot down the bones of a scene. But baths are best. A solitary soak seems to let my mind range free better than anything else.

Paper and pen beside the bath is essential, though, if you don't want to have to leap out and dry yourself hastily before the idea, as volatile as a dream, evaporates.


  1. We haven't got a proper bath. Just a shower. Really tough to jot ideas down in the shower.

    I find that walks do it for me best. Problem there, of course is most of my walks involve a dachshund and a chihuahua. Not all that conducive to note taking.

  2. NO BATH???

    But then it is much hotter where you are, and a soak in a hot bath doesn't work unless there's a coolth in the air, I find. You need the warmth to be cheering, not sweaty.

    I didn't know you had a chihuahua as well as Odie. You've been keeping very quiet about him/her. Is it a disreputable hound that, given half a chance, savages postmen?

  3. I'm sure I'm always boring people with "why you think best in the shower" but I'll do it again. Apparently, it's to do with the water washing particulates out of the air so you get a more direct oxygen hit. I saw it on tele so it must be true.

    Richard Wiseman (twitter's psychologist in residence) says we think best when we are busy performing manual or physically hard tasks, because they keep one part of the brain active which stops it keeping a cap on the creative part. It's certainly true taht I think best when I'm running, and it's not just because I've read too much Murakami.

  4. Hi Dan, nice to see you here.

    Not sure it's true about thinking best while performing manual tasks. I do a lot of those, being a jeweller/silversmith, and it seems to me that one's brain, like muscles, is astonishingly specific. Some tasks are so boring the radio is essential, but yet I haven't enough spare capacity to think creatively. Maybe knitting is more the sort of thing...and I've never figured out how people write while listening to music.

  5. That's very interesting. Yes, knitting is much more like it, I imagine.

    I nevr got how people could work to music, but my wife has to have music everywhere and at any time, so I've had to learn to, and have found it can actually help. Especially if I (like Peter and the Wolf!) listen to the same music each day for a character's POV. it's a very good way of getting back "into voice".

  6. Aha, true, that's the exception. I had particular pieces of evocative music that epitomized parts of my first two novels, and helped me get in the right mindset.

    For my third, I found myself writing the music into the narrative, as what Caz had playing in the background.

  7. Ironing - a great pile of ironing can produce a scene or two. Notepad and pen by the side of the pile otherwise it can evaporate with the steam.

  8. I'll try that - I've got a pile of ironing that's been waiting for my attention. Not a huge one, though, so it may not work.

    I used to like ironing when my daughter was little - all those tiny garments.

  9. Ironing sometimes works for me. As for music, since my main characters are jazz musicians, I put on Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Count Basie, Chet Baker, Benny Goodman, Art Tatum, it's a good thing I have a lot of jazz music between the CD's and the vinyl. Just can't be vocals, so Ella and Louis are unfortunately out.

  10. We both had this notion that we had ideas in the shower so Lois both a neat little whiteboard and a kind of chinagraph pencil crayon thing that will write under water. It's done the trick, we haven't had an idea in the shower since.

  11. Lol. I had a golden umbrella I called my magic umbrella. It worked on the same principle - if I took it with me, it never rained.