As the critically acclaimed author of many award-winning novels, I’m often asked how I’m able to be so successful and prolific. The answer is quite simple: I have all my best ideas in the shower, and I shower dozens of times a day.
I sit down at my desk first thing in the morning, start writing, and whenever I hit a roadblock, I get in the shower. Once I’ve worked out a solution, I get out of the shower, dry off completely, put my clothes back on, set my pruney, wrinkled fingers to the keyboard, and start typing. As soon as I get stuck again, I immediately strip down, get back in the shower, and don’t come out until I’ve cracked the problem, no matter how long it takes.
Even if my hot water runs out.
On an average day, it only takes me between ten and fifteen showers to write a page. I have challenging days as well, days when I need forty showers or more just to get a middling sentence or two down. But sometimes—not often, but sometimes—a single shower is all it takes. I wrote my fifth book in one sitting after a particularly productive nine-hour shower.
To be absolutely clear, I don’t write in the shower. That would be ridiculous.
The most crucial part of taking a shower is maintaining your focus. A writer must learn to tune out the nagging inner voice that asks distracting questions like, “What if readers hate my new book?” or “What if I never write anything good again?” or “Is it only a matter of time before I slip and hurt my back because I’m getting in and out of the shower so much?” You cannot do quality work if you’re worrying about critics, or the horrific state of your bath mat, or your landlord hammering on your apartment door shouting and weeping about mold and water damage.
Though I must admit, sometimes even I get distracted and can’t resist taking a quick look at social media when I’m supposed to be working. I’ve ruined a lot of phones that way.
As a writer, it’s important to find the tools that work for you: the right keyboard; a particular kind of notebook; an extremely gentle shampoo that won’t dry your hair out even if you use gallons of it on a daily basis. And you have to be prepared, because inspiration can strike at any time. That’s why on my nightstand there’s always a pen, some paper, and a loofah.
Writers must also take care not to overextend themselves. I’ve been asked to draft screenplays for the many movie adaptations of my books, but I always decline. I’m a novelist, not a screenwriter, and I just can’t see myself going to Hollywood since my showering habits are explicitly mentioned in multiple California water-use and drought-prevention laws.
I’ve never had writer’s block, but I have had showerer’s block, which, I assure you, is much worse. I’d get in the shower with my clothes on. I’d stand between the curtain and the liner and wonder why I wasn’t getting wet. At my lowest point, I turned on the shower and soup came out. My agent helped me ease my way back into showering by hiring someone to follow me around and spray me with a super soaker.
Of course, showering isn’t the only path to success. Dickens would go on long walks to get inspiration. Dalton Trumbo famously worked while taking baths. (This doesn’t make any sense to me.) I know a playwright who said he had his best ideas while doing the dishes. It’s a tragic story: he got a dishwasher and hasn’t written a single word since.
I know that it can be daunting to maintain a showering routine when you’re just starting out as a writer. If you’ve got kids and a day job, how can you possibly find the time to shower? The important thing is to keep showering, and shower whenever you can, wherever you can, in whatever time you have available. And never forget what Thomas Mann said: “A writer is someone for whom showering is more difficult than it is for other people.”