Washing Dishes for Your Ideas: Creativity Away from the Desk
The last time you got a really great idea—for a story, a product, a solution to a sticky problem—what were you doing? Were you sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen? If you’re anything like me, probably not. Genius, or a diluted version thereof, usually strikes me when my hands are immersed in water. Washing dishes.
Which, of course, is not to say that I never get great ideas while sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen. I’d be out of a job if that were the case. But earlier today, while scrubbing the remnants of my last culinary creation out of a big soup pot, I got an idea. There I was, trying not to get water all over the counter and the front of my shirt, when a few made-up people who barely exist on paper floated up to the surface (of my mind, not in the sink).
Right now these characters are flimsy, fickle ghosts who I am trying to coerce into the permanent residence of a short story. As I swished a sponge around the suds, I thought, “Why not make that guy a people doctor instead of a veterinarian?” (I’ll let you know if/when that idea ever pans out.) I got the tiny idea of a character detail, and, in case it’s not abundantly clear, the bigger idea for this blog post, while doing dishes on a Sunday morning. My self-chosen task because I could not stomach the idea of sitting in my office in front of a screen. Let’s call it productive escapism.
I’m not the first person to have this epiphany and make the connection between water and creativity. I mean, I didn’t say the ideas I got while washing dishes were necessarily original, right? Right. The lesson here for me, though, is that while I continue to work, work, work on ideas for my career, my creative writing, and the social media that I write for myself and others (my own big three, if you will), I need to step back. Let my brain slow down to a light jog in its incessant sprint-marathon-sprint race that keeps me humming but also wears me out.
I’d been thinking (and overthinking) lately that I needed to write a blog post, even though I felt a little dry and uninspired. Instead of trying to hammer out some words for the sake of words, I got out of the office, out of my head. I let go of my grip on one idea so another could unfold.
You might be writing a novel, launching a product, or wondering how to ask for a raise. Take it from me. Don’t overthink it into the ground. Go wash some dishes.by