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The great mystery of creativity

Posted: November 21, 2008 9:53 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
Why do the best ideas arrive in the shower?

There you are lathering up, when, bam! Inspiration strikes.

The perfect marketing plan, or the solution to your cash-flow problems are suddenly crystal clear and you go dashing through the house looking for a pad and pencil, dripping all the way.

So what's the deal?

Is there something magical about the water, the steam or the soap?

Scientists have some theories about the phenomenon. One clinical psychologist says that creativity requires an attitude that is a paradoxical blend of attention and relaxation. As it happens, the shower is a near-perfect place to have such an attitude.

As we scrub, our minds revert to a sort of "neutral" state in which we are receptive to issues that bother us or are unresolved.

It seems the mind wanders aimlessly, which makes it easier to entertain less-than-serious thoughts.

In most cases these thoughts lead nowhere, but on occasion you'll hit on something really great.

It seems there's nothing magical about the shower itself, but it is a place where we perform a relatively mindless and simple activity.

It is also a place where we've shut down the analytical part of the mind and operate in the spontaneous part of the brain.

When free from performance anxieties, our mind is free to be creative.

Also, because you're presumably showering alone, you're in a personal space free from negative feedback, quizzical stares, and other distractions.

In fact, for most people the shower is the only place where they are totally alone with their thoughts.

To achieve that relaxed state of mind without having to shower, it's important to be removed from the context in which the problem occurs.

So if you're in the business of making shower heads, shower caps, soap or bubble bath, the shower may not be the relaxing place that it is for the rest of us.

I'm afraid you'll have to find another place to be private, relaxed and let your mind wander.

Clothing is optional.

Maureen Stephenson is a local author and owner of Santa Clarita-based REMS Publishing & Publicity. Her column represents her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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