Thinking in the bath…

Dear all,

When I think of a subject for a blog post I always try to keep it related to my personal experiences of writing but that doesn’t necessarily mean the physical act of writing. Sometimes the most important part of the writing process is the research and preparation. For me, this includes taking the time out to think through an idea without distraction, putting myself in a position where I give it my full attention. I have talked before about how much I enjoy walking and how important it is to me for clearing the mind and allowing fresh perspectives; so I thought today I would share another favourite activity that helps in this regard: taking a bath!

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I feel excited about writing this post for two reasons. The first being the genuine pleasure of sharing my writing life with you, which is of course, the purpose of this blog…and taking baths is part of that no matter how much of a personal issue it may appear at first! The second reason is that, as you may know if you have read my blog this year, I am currently living in Spain and due to return home for Christmas. As you may guess there are lots of things I miss and cannot wait to return to, my family, my friends, my town, my local Indian restaurants…but enough of that, what I am really looking forward to is taking a ridiculously long, dangerously hot, crazily scented and decadently bubbled, bath…and writing this post gives me a chance to daydream about it. (Okay, okay, I’ve said before about how isolation can do strange things to you, just go with it.)
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One thing before you all assume the worst. Yes, I have been washing! I hope you are ahead of me when I say by way of explanation that my apartment has a shower. A very nice, perfectly fine shower and I have no complaints about my facilities, no, no, no. However, there is a world of difference when it comes to showers and baths and it has nothing to do with cleanliness. I know people who only take showers because they hate the time and effort it takes to run a bath, they get bored sitting there for ages doing nothing and prefer to be in and out. I understand that, it’s a bit like what I was saying in my previous post about sunbathing, some people love the peace and quiet and stillness, others get bored out of their brains. I’m here however to applaud the bath, to promote long, uninterrupted selfish bathing! I’m sorry to the environmentalists, of whom I count myself a minor member, I realise inappropriate use of water and unnecessary wastage is to be frowned upon.
So why do I think that taking about a bath deserves its own blog post?

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If I cast myself back to this time last year before I left for this trip and get back in the mindset of working the 9-5 then the thing that strikes me most is how we have to make the best of our evening hours. We get back from work and we have maybe three or four hours to ourselves. Well, I say ourselves, if you have children or other caring responsibilities then it is not simply ‘you time’. Which of course is fantastic I’m sure, you miss your kids and want to see them, absolutely, but when looking at it from a writing point of view, it means you take away an hour or two from the evening. Then you have to cook and eat a meal. Fine, all very nice. Let’s say it is now 9pm. You have put the kids to bed, you have had a nice dinner and you are either alone or tell you partner to get lost while you concentrate…let’s count up the possible options you now have to avoid writing:
1. Go out for drinks with friends (It’s a Monday night and everyone is busy, too tired or too broke to go out, so not tonight).
2. Go for a walk. (You’re too tired, so not tonight.)
3. Go food shopping because the supermarkets don’t close until 10 and it will be so much quieter at this time of night. (Just no.)
4. Call up your mum to say hi (Hmmm, maybe tomorrow).
5. Watch T.V (nothing on, again!)
Well, that’s it. Nothing for it, I’m going to have to damn well write….

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Hold on. You forgot number 6…
6. A bath!
Fantastic. It takes twenty minutes to run. You can sit in there for at least an hour if you are taking it seriously. It takes ten minutes to get out and avoid passing out or feinting. It takes another twenty minutes to cool down and feel yourself again. By that time, it’s far too late to write. Let’s go to bed! Good job.
I’m being a little flippant, I know. The truth is though, I have done that so many times I can’t begin to count. I’ve used baths to avoid all sorts of things and I know full well that 95% of the time I will be useless afterwards, no matter how inspired I may be during the bath, no matter how fantastic and unique and imaginative an idea I may conjure up (don’t forget this point) during the bath…I’m not doing anything afterwards.
However, and I am being serious now, it really can be a beneficial thing to do as long as you admit that you are doing it for the right reasons. Yes, taking time away from writing is a distraction like any other but what other times do you get in your life to have total and utter privacy, quiet and calm to think and de-stress? Yes, it may still be difficult if you have young children and you don’t have anyone else to supervise, I appreciate that but in my case, and I’ll be selfish from now on and talk about me (it’s my blog, so there) it is an opportunity to cut myself off and instead of wasting that soaking-time daydreaming about being the Formula 1 world champion or something (not that I do that at nearly 35 years of age…ahem…honestly) I focus and concentrate on the stories that are percolating in the mass of slush that is my brain.

http-//www.pinterest.com/pin/412923859556815511/ (& for equalities sake I did try looking for a man in a bath)
There are a few things that can happen. The one you are hoping for is that problems clear up. Remember above when I said in brackets not to forget that point of being inspired, well it is because you must always have a pen and paper to-hand to record those magical moments. This may cause you difficulties. I have lost some fine A4 lined comrades to the watery depths over the years. Nevertheless you must try. A lot of people do this for sleeping, they record all their dreams when they wake up. That doesn’t happen so much for me. It is more common with baths.
There is something about immersing yourself in hot water (bubbles, oils and scents all to your own liking, please) that relaxes in a unique way for me. I often have music but as with writing, if I know I want to think through some ideas I will play jazz or classical, or albums I know are mostly instrumental. I don’t need words clogging up my attention. I am able to find a peaceful sense of calm that enables clear thinking.

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The images I have spread throughout this post were found by a simple search on Pinterest. I have used the URL of each image as its caption. To find out more about the image, which original site it came from, its owner, its location and so on please go to that URL and explore. I know that is being lazy on my part but I…well, I…I am being lazy. 
I expect one of the reasons individual activities like bathing and walking help so much is because writing is very much an individual activity. You need to be a bit selfish and go within yourself to find not just words and phrases, but a meaning to what you are doing. Sitting in front of your computer typing is of course essential but sometimes you can get lost in the process of writing and churn out paragraph after paragraph that aren’t actually going anywhere. You are writing for the sake of writing and although sometimes that is needed – I am a big believer in simply writing and seeing what comes out – sometimes it can be a bit of a waste of time because as good a practice as it may be, you just end up deleting it because you are trying to push through a scene and it just isn’t working, the ideas simply aren’t there. You sometimes need to admit you need a break and a bit like a mathematician who has to try multiple calculations before seeing progress, you need to run through scenarios and see what you are most happy with. Again everyone, I am a novice, so what do I know, but I spend a lot of time writing and this is one of the problems I come up against. I want to finish something so I bash out a few pages but really, it’s not right, it’s too convenient, it’s too implausible, it’s too…easy.

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So thanks for sticking with me through this rather odd post. I have enjoyed thinking about home and it’s less than two months away now so as well as looking forward to the traditional xmas Shakin’ Stevens, Slade and The Pogues on the radio, holly & ivy wrapped around the bar of my local, retro woolly jumpers and finding any excuse for excessive drinking and eating, I can also dream of reading A Christmas Carol in the bath.
And if it is good enough for J.R.R Tolkien then it’s certainly good enough for me! Please scroll to watch the following section: From 7:32 to 7:47.

(This is a film from the BBC, the original page is http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/writers/12237.shtml however you cannot share that archived footage so I found it on YouTube. The uploader has cut the film into two parts from the original one, and this is the second part only. I should not really be posting this, I avoid sharing without permission normally but there was a line in this that I really wanted to use, it is only a few seconds as noted above. I will probably remove this link soon. Sorry for breaking protocol! If you want to watch this film in full (and it’s great so you should) please go to the BBC website above to watch.)

Take care all,


***

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