I wish I can say it’s because I do something cool like take a typewriter into the bathtub and crank out an entire novel in ten minutes while literal ice cubes are falling from the shower head. Or that ice-cold showers open up some deeply hidden chakra inside of me and I glow like Avatar Aang once I hop out, glowing with voracious motivation and creativity.
But I can’t say that. I can say that I did become a better writer by taking cold showers, though.
I got the idea from a YouTube video by Thomas Frank. He regularly posts productivity hacks for the college-aged crowd, and since I am trying to become a full-time writer while still in college, I find his videos immensely helpful. So when I heard him say he takes cold showers to improve his self-discipline, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit skeptical.
Cold showers? Really? No way. I scoffed, feeling cold just thinking about it.
But yes way indeed. Frank said that the act of overcoming something unpleasant with something you have to do (because you can’t go forever without showering) translates to your ability to sit down and work. It’s tough and uncomfortable to tear yourself away from that Buzzfeed video to focus on that unfinished story, but that’s exactly what you have to do to. You must expose yourself to the uncomfortable to be able to overcome it.
I had to try it out for myself.
I went into my bathroom starting off with my usual routine. Check to make sure I have a towel (you won’t believe how many times I forgot one, running like a butt-ass naked Usain Bolt back to my room). Check to make sure my Spotify playlist is nothing less than, as the kids say, bumpin’. Yes and yes. The only thing left to do was to start the shower.
I must have stood there facing the shower head as if it were a snake I didn’t know how to wrangle. In my mind, I couldn’t get past the initial blast of cold water on my exposed skin. Every Ice Bucket Challenge I’ve seen streamed through my head, and I imagined what that water on my skin would be like. The shock. The freezing cold. The discomfort of it all.
But I told myself I had to do it. If I truly want to become a better writer, I have to do this.
I turned the faucet as cold and as strong as it could go. The water gurbled up the pipes, sounding like the heartbeat in my ears, and I was then met with an ice-cold blast of water to the face. My skin turned to goosebumps, and I gasped at the cold. It felt like I was expanding, something rising inside of me like I was a balloon being pumped full of air. My breath caught in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. But I grabbed my shampoo and began to shower. I shampooed, conditioned, and washed my body so fast you would think I was competing in the Olympics for it. I must have been done in under three minutes.
After a final rinse of my hair, I slammed the water off. The ice-cold water dribbled to a stop and I felt like one of those dudes in the gym who slam their dumbbells to the ground and flex their muscles like King Kong. I cheered for myself. I even think I gave myself a pat on the back. I was cold, yes. The entirety of me was freezing, but I had gotten used to it. About a minute into the shower, it didn’t bother me that much anymore. I struggled to the end rushed but comfortable.
And when I dried off and clothed myself, writing my daily 2,000 words didn’t seem so much like a challenge anymore. Because after that first minute of uncomfortableness, I just got over it and did what I had to do. And this was a crucial lesson to learn for my writing career.
I continue to take cold showers to this day and actually find them much more relaxing than warm showers. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop, as they provide me a nice boost in productivity for the rest of the day. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I actually do write in the shower. But until that day, I’m going to continue enjoying my newfound word-bending abilities. Avatar Aang woke up in a ball of ice too, so we now have that in common.