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Take A Shower or Watch Cows To Be Creative

Shower by Bharat Balasubramanian

Do you get creative ideas in the shower? Do you have any routines or schedules to help encourage your creative thinking and work? Many artists do.

But E. B. White (Stuart Little; Charlotte’s Web, among other titles) cautioned:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Quoted in her Brain Pickings post The Daily Routines of Great Writers by Maria Popova.

She comments in a related post: “The notion that if only we could replicate the routines of great minds, we’d be able to reverse-engineer their genius is, of course, an absurd one — yet an alluring one nonetheless.”

From Daily Rituals: A Guided Tour of Writers’ and Artists’ Creative Habits.

She includes quotes by and about James Joyce, Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein and others, from the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey.

A summary notes it includes “161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do.”

Gertrude SteinGertrude Stein (1874-1946) was “a member of the Lost Generation in Paris and helped develop modernism in Art and Literature. A larger than life personality, she encouraged artists such as Picasso and Hemingway and was a successful writer.” (

A New Yorker article from 1934 described part of the daily routine of Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas:

“The two ladies drive around in their Ford till they come to a good spot. Then Miss Stein gets out and sits on a campstool with pencil and pad, and Miss Toklas fearlessly switches a cow into her line of vision.

“If the cow doesn’t seem to fit in with Miss Stein’s mood, the ladies get into the car and drive on to another cow.

“When the great lady has an inspiration, she writes quickly, for about fifteen minutes. But often she just sits there, looking at cows…”

From Tender Buttons.


You have likely heard the idea that taking a shower is a way to “invite the Muse” and release creative thinking.

Psychologist R. Keith Sawyer says creativity researchers refer to “the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged.”

The photo shows an un-corrected Hubble telescope image at the left, next to an image at the right made with corrected optics.

Sawyer explained in a magazine article that in 1990 a team of NASA scientists “was trying to fix the distorted lenses in the Hubble telescope, which was already in orbit. An expert in optics suggested that tiny inversely distorted mirrors could correct the images, but nobody could figure out how to fit them into the hard-to-reach space inside.

“Then engineer Jim Crocker, taking a shower in a German hotel, noticed the European-style showerhead mounted on adjustable rods. He realized the Hubble’s little mirrors could be extended into the telescope by mounting them on similar folding arms. And this flash was the key to fixing the problem.”

From my post Creative Inspiration In The Shower and Fixing The Hubble.

Author Carolyn Gregoire affirms this strategy:

“There’s one rather simple and prosaic way to tap into your deepest creativity and trigger your most profound insights: Hop in the shower.

“Research conducted by Scott Barry Kaufman, in collaboration with the world’s largest showerhead supplier, Hansgrohe, found that 72 percent of people around the globe report experiencing new ideas in the shower.

“In fact, people reported that they are more likely to get fresh insights in the shower than at work!”

But how could this work?

She continues, “A shower is also, quite literally, a place of incubation — a change of scenery from the rest of our everyday lives that’s relatively free of stimulation and distractions.

“Showering insulates us from the external world so that we can focus all of our attention on our inner desires, daydreams, and memories — thereby increasing the likelihood that our mind will come up with creative connections.”

Gregoire adds that Harvard psychologist Shelley H. Carson thinks “the brief distraction that a shower provides can also be a good thing when it comes to creativity.

“Carson explains that interruptions and diversions can help that all-important creative incubation period.”

From This Science-Backed Trick Can Unlock Your Creativity In Just 5 Minutes by Carolyn Gregoire.

This post is from the book: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire. [“…an empowering manifesto for creative people” says Susan Cain.]

Shelley Carson, PhD is author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life.

Also hear my audio interview with her: Shelley Carson on enhancing our creative brain.


Take A Shower or Watch Cows To Be Creative

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). Take A Shower or Watch Cows To Be Creative. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Mar 2016
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