David Lynch, Bob's Big Boy, and Me

I used to go to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant just about every day from the mid-seventies until the early eighties. I’d have a milk shake and sit and think. There’s a safety in thinking in a diner. You can have your coffee or your milk shake, and you can go off into strange dark areas, and always come back to the safety of the diner.

So wrote David Lynch in a brief book titled Catching the Big Fish. Subtitled Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, its purported theme is how Lynch’s twenty years of Transcendental Meditation have helped him think creatively. But it’s both less and more than that. It is less in its lightness on details about meditation and it is more in the insight it gives of Lynch’s creative career.

I was drawn to the book after reading of Lynch’s near-obsessive milk shake routine at Bob’s Big Boy. I have my own back table where I like to sit and think, and I felt a bit less eccentric about it after a family visit to the Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa last year. There we saw the table in the cafe at Schulz’s ice rink where Schulz ate his daily tuna sandwich, watched his visitors dine and skate, and collected his thoughts for his afternoons at the drawing table.

Like Schulz, Lynch harbored eccentricity for the sake of his work:

I went to a psychiatrist once. I was doing something that had become a pattern in my life, and I thought, Well, I should go talk to a psychiatrist. When I got into the room, I asked him, “Do you think that this process could, in any way, damage my creativity?” And he said, “Well, David, I have to be honest: it could.” And I shook his hand and left.

You can read Catching the Big Fish in an evening. It is mostly recollection and commentary on Lynch’s filmmaking, with many specific connections to people and projects. Throughout the book Lynch stresses the value of meditation. But beneath that there’s a simpler, broader theme: if you would have a calling, you have to make room for it.

It’s such a tricky business. You want to do your art, but you’ve got to live. So you’ve got to have a job, and then sometimes you’re too tired to do your art. But if you love what you’re doing, you’re going to keep on doing it anyway… So much of what happened to me is good fortune. But I would say: Try to get a job that gives you some time; get your sleep and a little bit of food; and work as much as you can. There’s so much enjoyment in doing what you love. Maybe this will open doors, and you’ll find a way to do what you love. I hope you do.

I had a hard time finding Catching the Big Fish in local bookstores, but it was available on Amazon. If you’re local, the Santa Clara County library system has three copies. And if you’re local and a friend, I’ll lend you mine.

A great post. I feel the same way :)

Rhys Tranter — August 31, 2008