The Quiet Chaos of Working From the Bath

When we chose the theme “Chaos” back in March we had an inkling that the word was in the air, but we did not know how truly on the nose it would turn out to be. Lots of things were thrown into disarray that month, including many of our editorial plans, which is why we’re just now publishing this piece by the March writer’s club winner, Emily Field, whose endorsement of her cramped workspace is at turns, funny, sweet, and surprising. Better late than never, we hope you agree?

I’ve been working from the bath for more than ten years. My home office is 44 inches of chipped, enamel tub—a quiet place to entertain loud, unruly thoughts for hours.

The upside of working from the bath is that it’s hard to get cold feet about an idea when said feet are submerged in hot water. The downside is the potential destruction of ideas if your phone or notebook slips into the watery abyss.

It was, at least, a chaos of my own making.

Really, the occupational hazards of a bath office are numerous. Breaking a glass means you can’t move a muscle. Accidentally accepting a video chat from a coworker is a fireable offense. If you add candles for ambiance, you run the risk of setting your hair or notes on fire (not as implausible as you might think). Working on a phone that’s plugged into a wall charger is not dissimilar to using a hair dryer in the bath, only the dangers are less frequently advertised. Every now and then I catch myself, cords dangling just above sea level, on the brink of electrocuting my way to a eulogy that would make my practical farming family cringe.

I first discovered the pleasures of working from the bath aged 17, when the inescapable loudness of my living quarters drove me into the tiled confines of the bathroom. In our little house, cramped with too many siblings, cousins, and neighborly drop-ins, there was no space to study, and so I claimed the tub. In a bath quarter-filled with muddy river water, and my knees drawn up as a desk, I wrote essays, memorized legal case studies, and rehearsed drama monologues. It wasn’t a perfect workspace—I had to vacate when people needed to use the toilet, my tailbone ached, and my skin dried out then itched—but it was, at least, a chaos of my own making. My longest stint in the tub? The sun came up, then set.

My longest stint in the tub? The sun came up, then set.

The bath has become such a fixture in my life that I sometimes feel incapable of working on dry land. I’ll show up to my actual office, where I work as an advertising creative, get briefed to write a script, then spend the remainder of the workday second-guessing every word I type while yearning for the relative safety of the tub. Later, after dinner, when I can access the wild side of my brain. Or later still, at 4 am, when the only sounds I can hear are my thoughts and a tap slowly dripping. As an anxious person, I sometimes can’t breathe, let alone think, without the tub’s cozy embrace. What began as a practical bid for a space to call my own, has become my creative crutch, my cure-all, the one place where I’m truly comfortable letting my thoughts roam.

P.S.: The writer’s club is relaunching and the next deadline to submit is this Monday, July 6! Read more here.

Emily Field

Emily Field

Emily is a Sydney-based advertising creative, and manager of two rescue cats. She's currently a writer at BMF Australia, but is originally from a farm at the edge of the Aussie outback where she learned to
drive a tractor before she could drive a car (although the latter is still a work in progress.)

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