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Take A Bath With The Bay Area Brit

I get remarkable things accomplished in the bathtub. Admittedly I’m not learning to speak Swahili, baking a truffle soufflé, or taking the test one needs for a license to fly the Space Shuttle. (Imagine flashing that to a Highway Patrol Officer when caught speeding.) No, my accomplishments are kind of boring comparatively, but are important to my daily existence. I’m talking about plucking something from the air and turning it into something that might briefly entertain someone.

The most common question asked of artists (of all kind) is a variation of this: “Where do you get your ideas?” My answer to this strange question is always this, “My inspiration comes when I’m in a bathtub.”

Most of my writing and cartoon ideas evolve while I’m soaking in hot water. The reason is super-obvious…and no it’s not because I’m a Human Bean. It’s because there are usually far fewer distractions in the tub…unless of course one is not alone. (Pass the soap.)

When my mind is in that place of calm and tranquility, anything can happen. This is how I write: I think randomly, and without censoring myself I write down everything that I think is funny. On one page in one of my notebooks I found these examples.

Two light bulbs playing Scrabble…one of them comes up with a triple word score and a smaller illuminated light bulb shows up above his head.  (cute kinda funny)

Two friends at an Alien Abductees Support Group fear the worst and forlornly look to the sky when they notice their friend Bob is not at the meeting.   (pretty funny)

A lonely child writes false names and well wishes on the cast of his broken leg to ease his misery.  (funny and sad)

From my dampened notebooks you’ll find the seed of an idea scrawled in black, barely legible smudges that suggests that Purgatory is hilariously bureaucratic for an afterlife station. You’ll also find notes for an idea about a germophobic teenager that discovers his grandmother’s four previous husbands died mysteriously. Both of these rambling, inky smears turned into 320 page novels.

I’ve written over a hundred or so short stories and blogs. I’ve dreamed up a couple of thousand cartoons and have three or four more book ideas with anywhere between 3 and 200 pages written (not including the two sequels to the two books I’ve mentioned.) I also co-wrote a third book (a “How to” spoof which in its current incarnation is an iPhone application created by my co-writer.) All of these weird thoughts and ideas (for better or worse) might never have existed if it wasn’t for the bathtub…and of course my avoidance of distractions.

Distractions are the enemy, oh yes. At all cost I try to avoid distractions.

I have over eighty notebooks that have been steam-wrinkled (much as I have been) by spending hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week—dare I say month upon month—in the bath. All of these notebooks are packed with sketches, jokes, or story ideas. Some pages are funny and clever. A large percentage of them are mediocre, and some are wretchedly awful and tasteless. Even more are completely unfunny bits that just don’t work. Most of the contents of these books will never see the light of day.

But I try hard to come up with the next great idea, joke, story, or cartoon. However, I cannot do it if I’m distracted.

Yep, some men are the strong silent types. Not me. I’m the kind of guy that figures if he keeps talking and making jokes, eventually, even if it’s by accident, he’s going to say something funny or clever. It’s the infinite number of monkeys taking an infinite number of baths theory.

So yes, the bathtub is my fortress of solitude, where, for me, all the good things that make me happy start to come alive. Guess where I wrote this?

I had no choice.

Something was causing a massive distraction in my office. Distractions are the enemy, even when they’re really, really cute.

6 Responses

  1. It’s true! The cuteness is completely debilitating — run for the hills!!
    Great blog!

  2. I’m getting my bath tub reglazed this week so that I can take baths and let my mind wonder like you do.

    Great post from a fellow Bay Arean (I think that’s a valid word)!

  3. With cuteness like that, I can’t imagine how you get anything accomplished. Another fascinating entry sir! I enjoyed it so much, I won’t even count among the distractions keeping me from my own work!

  4. Love the blog. Totally can relate
    to the distractions and writings
    that will never be seen. I got a box
    full of them marked “plague” just in
    case some one stumbles upon it after
    I’m dead. Can’t do the tub since I
    first saw that dirty hippy in
    The Young Ones turn his into a
    mud bath. Keep writing old man!

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