Clean the bath to kick-start Creativity

I recently watched The Creative Brain, an episode of Horizon looking at how moments of inspiration come about.

I found it fascinating, and I’m sure one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was that it chimed in with my own experience. It was so nice (and, let’s be honest, rare) to find something I had had a hunch about was actually backed up by scientific research… One of the conclusions the programme drew was that the best way of getting that satisfying flash of enlightenment was not to sit there focussing on a problem, effectively waiting for the answer to show up. It seemed that this was like watching the proverbial pot, waiting for it to boil. Instead, engaging in some kind of low level activity – nothing that required too much concentration – was what Horizon recommended.
It may be worth doing the chores after all…
And this is just what I’ve found. From essay writing at university to coming up with plots and text now, doing something mundane like walking, showering, vacuuming or ironing is just what it takes to get ideas flowing. It means I’m very slow at chores, since I keep breaking off to speed-type, but at the same time, it’s actually the only reason I ever sweep up or dust anything, so overall it’s a plus.
The programme’s contributors also recommended breaking your normal routine to view things in a new light. This made me think of Cassandra, in I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, sitting on the draining board to write her journal. It also made me wonder if Smith herself ever adopted similar tactics when writing.
If you have favourite activities that you find spark off creativity, I’d love to hear about them. Please do leave a comment.
In the meantime, the BBC has produced a page summarising Horizon’s findings here. And for more about the benefits of a little light boredom, here’s a BBC article on how it allows children’s imagination to develop and another on the British Psychological Society’s website about how boredom at work can make us more creative!

4 thoughts on “Clean the bath to kick-start Creativity

  1. Hi Clare, I'm so glad I saw the link to your blog. I saw that particular episode recommended on Twitter but forgot about it. I've listed it as to-do tomorrow morning. Like you, I tend to resort to household chores to ignite my creativity, but lightning has been known to strike mid conversation, which isn't always appreciated. Especially when I was supposed to be the one listening.:-)


  2. Hi Claire

    Thanks so much for your comment – hope you enjoy the programme! Your story about getting ideas mid-conversation made me laugh. I have been known to write very confusing records of meetings that suddenly lapse into plot ideas…So far I've managed to weed them out before they make it into any work files though… :0)


  3. Oh, you're so right! Washing up sorts out my plot tangles, or gives me the gist to a tricky article, though it's only now I've thought about it that I've realised.
    How handy! Next time I'm stuck, I'll get my fairy out…thank you!


  4. Thanks so much for your comment, Carlie! I'll try washing up next – could solve a plot problem I'm working on, and clear the mysterious sink-side mountain, all in one go – bargain!


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