I had this thought today in the shower:
Why do we often find clarity within the rhythm of a run, or the suds of a shower?
Last week I finished reading Tress of the Emerald Sea. Tress is the first of four “secret novels” released by one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, as part of the most successful kickstarter of all time.
It was a super fun standalone read, a whimsical adventure in the style of “The Princess Bride” - but if the protagonist was actually the princess Buttercup, instead of basically anyone else.
What differentiates Tress from other similar fantasy fare is the choice of perspective; the entire novel is narrated by a character named Hoid, an ancient and integral member of Sanderson’s universe who imbues the story with wit. Through him, Sanderson muses in thought-provoking philosophical tangents about memories, bravery, opportunity, and empathy.
How does this relate to r/showerthoughts?
According to the Washington Post, “research has shown that what is known as the ‘shower effect’ also can occur outside the shower, and many of our best thoughts don’t happen at work or school — but occur while going about our days with ideas incubating in the background… that 20 percent of the most meaningful ideas come while doing something else — such as washing dishes or taking a shower.”
Popular culture perpetuates this notion - when does Tony Stark have his necessary Eureka “aha moment” for a time travel device in Avengers: Endgame? While washing plates.
And two such passages in Tress explore a similar idea - that work that requires manual labor enables people to spend a larger percentage of their time in the state that others might only find in the shower:
You might think this an unfair moral problem to force upon a simple window washer, but there’s a certain arrogance in that kind of reasoning. A window washer can think, same as anyone else, and their lives are no less complex. And as I’ve warned you, “simple” labor often leaves plenty of time for thought.
Yes, intellectuals and scholars are paid to think deep thoughts—but those thoughts are often owned by others. It is a great irony that society tends to look down on those who sell their bodies, but not on those who lease out their minds.
That is one of the great mistakes people make: assuming that someone who does menial work does not like thinking. Physical labor is great for the mind, as it leaves all kinds of time to consider the world. Other work, like accounting or scribing, demands little of the body—but siphons energy from the mind.
If you wish to become a storyteller, here is a hint: sell your labor, but not your mind. Give me ten hours a day scrubbing a deck, and oh the stories I could imagine. Give me ten hours adding sums, and all you’ll have me imagining at the end is a warm bed and a thought-free evening.
Many of our best ideas can come when our minds are wandering. When washing, walking, working, relieving, and running.
It’s a great tragedy then, that so many of us spend our spare moments staring at mobile devices. We rid ourselves of boredom, and therefore strip out our spontaneity.
I’m certainly guilty of this myself. In the future, I hope to be more thoughtful about how I spend my time, and allot more of it for thinking.
Thanks for reading :)