Squeezing Out the Best Writing


Picture yourself on a public toilet. You’re in the middle of pushing one out, and all the sudden something hits you – not the dirty water, but rather a thought. It’s the best thought you’ve had in days, but you don’t have a notebook with you, you left your phone in your satchel, or purse, or dorm room, or bar, or table, or wherever, but you have a sharpie in your pocket, and if you don’t write down the lines in your head, you will forget them. You can’t lose the gem, and you can’t get up quite yet. What do you do?

Well, in college, I used to take advantage of this scenario on a daily basis. I don’t like public bathrooms. I’m like Finch in American Pie – a public restroom can be crippling to my psyche. So, in order to cope with this, I typically search for the hidden gem. At Pacific University, my hidden gem was in the basement of the student center. It was a fairly unused, and unknown restroom, and it was the easiest place to go if I was simply roaming around the campus. The bathroom was cleaned once a day in the late evening, and that meant a bit of peace and quiet to do two things: take care of business, and write on the back of the stall with an overhead pen.

I didn’t have texting capabilities on my cell phone for my first couple of years in college, nor did I really understand the technology behind writing notes on my phone. But what I did know was that I could graffiti lines of poetry on the bathroom stall, finish up my task, wash my hands, race back to my dorm room, then back to the restroom, write down the lines, and then move on, knowing that the cleaning crew would have an easy time spraying it down and clearing away the evidence by the end of the night – just in time for another bathroom writing session the next day.

We all write in odd places; the bathroom was simply one of my many stops during the day. I’ve always been curious as to what the cleaning crew thought, or if others sat down to read my daily scribbles. Either way, I didn’t lose my thoughts, and it was a good place to sit, think, and get some work done before someone else wiped it away.

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