One of my long-standing goals in life is to eventually own a house with two completely extra rooms, rooms that will never need to be converted to guest space, children’s bedrooms, storage, what have you. Two rooms that will be my domain. One of these will become a library with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, comfy chairs and a couch, good light, and- ideally, but not a dealbreaker- a deeply cushioned window seat perfect for curling up with a book and a cat.
The other room is going to be an office, with a comfortable chair, a desk arranged in just the right way, the various electronics that I actually need (namely a CD player or iPod), places to tack up all the random notes and images I collect over the course of any given day, the pictures that are awkward to copy over into the composition books, a place to store my formidable array of writing utensils (I admit it, I’m a major pen junkie; I color code my notes and everything)…Most importantly, a place where I can close the door and shut out all the distractions of the rest of the house.
For now, I just go to Chick-fil-A. It’s honestly just a coincidence that it’s the same place as Storytime- I’ve been doing Storytime for a little over a year and I’ve been writing there for three years. For one thing, I have deep and abiding love for the food, and the fact that they have Cherry Coke on tap. Cherry Coke is my drug of choice. All the rest of the week, I am a good girl and drink the zero sodas, just so I can have my free refills at CFA once a week without the heaping side serving of guilt. It’s a popular place and the lunch rush lasts for a few hours, so I always keep an eye on the line and the number of available tables, and if I’ve already finished my meal and they’re packed to the point of needing the booth I’m occupying, I’ll go ahead and leave so they’re not losing business.
I don’t know if this is a business practice of CFA in general or if it’s pretty much this location, but they’re ridiculously welcoming of the crazy girl who sits alone in a booth for hours at a time (and occasionally brings a small stuffed penguin to serve as paperweight, mascot, and stress toy all in one). We know each other’s names, they know my order, they ask how the writing is going or what book I’m reading that day. Once I put the earbuds in, they swing by if my cup is topless at the end of the table, but otherwise leave me alone to concentrate.
When I try to write at home, my ADD goes crazy with the number of distractions all around me. There are so many books to read! Or the TV is visible from the dining room table (my makeshift office, because my brother accuses me of being anti-social and whines if I try to clear off my desk in my bedroom), and all too often I get absorbed in the movie that’s just supposed to be on for background noise. And the kitchen is right in front of me, full of snacky type food that seems so light and harmless until you tally it up at the end of the day and realize- holy hell!- just how much you’ve eaten. Or the craft projects that have been neglected. Or the antics of the cats coked out on ‘nip. Or the equally ADD older brother/roommate running around like a bored five-year-old in a desperate search for entertainment. Or the room that really needs to be cleaned, or the laundry/dishes/bathroom that needs to be done.
And oh, dear God, the internet.
But I leave the house, and all of that goes away. I take exactly one book with me (or my nook, but I still limit myself to just one open title), unless it’s actually a reference for the day’s writing. I order my meal, stake out my preferred booth (the one with the power outlet; also, it’s positioned in such a way that it doesn’t matter if I forget I’m wearing a skirt. Very important. Southern I am, belle I’m not), and read while I’m eating. Finger food+ writing= ewwww. Then, when I’m done, I get out everything I need. Notebooks with outlines, characters, notes, research, and Very Bad Maps? Check. Color-coding pens? Check. iPod? Very necessary check- I am useless without a soundtrack. Filled drink? Check. Computer? Check. I used to write out everything long hand, but between all the extra time it took and the medical-type hand problems that left me whimpering with pain, the laptop turned out to be a much better personal choice for me. I just disable the wireless so I can’t get myself in trouble.
Some days the words are flowing; some days they’re not, I have to fight for every word, and I know a number of them are getting rewritten later no matter what. Whether it’s an on day or an off day, there are going to be places where I have to take a step back and figure some things out. It might be the right way to phrase something. It might be the best way to bridge two parts of the outlines. Every now and then, I’ll run across something completely unexpected and have to decide if I want to run with it or yank it back to the outline. I almost aways run with it- about 90% of the time I end up loving it, and for the other 10%, it’s a lot easier to rewrite it to the outline than to try and reclaim that Really Cool Idea you passed on. So, while I’m staring off into space, petting the mascot (he’s a very soft penguin), and letting the words or ideas fall into place, I people watch.
I love to people watch. I’m not sure if it flourished first in writing or in theatre (my background is in both), or if it sprang from both simultaneously, but people watching is amazing. It’s great exercise, actually. You pick up on quirks. You learn how to give a snapshot introduction (also good for incident reports when people try to steal). You watch the interactions between people and try to guess their relationships, their history. You make up a background for someone based entirely off what they’re wearing or doing. You snicker over the people who order a huge, deep-fried meal, ice cream, and a Diet Coke. And slowly, those exercises start reflecting in your writing.
Then, about the time I’ve had my fill of other people, the words or the ideas have sorted themselves out and I can get back into the groove. Some days I can get a couple thousand words done and I’m grateful. Other days I can slam out an entire chapter and I’m
exhausted brain dead giddy. When I’m done for the day, I get home, and I can play on the intertubes guilt-free.
Well, at least until I look at the dishes.
Or the laundry.
Heh. That’s what the other day off each week is for.
For those of you who are writers, where is your best place to write? What’s your routine? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Until next time~