cliched experience

I played the part of writer over the weekend. It was a cliched role, but I think I pulled it off.

Because my daughter has a life, I found myself with a few hours to kill on Saturday morning. I had gone to New York last weekend to run with her in a 10K. On Saturday morning, she had her usual running practice; I had my usual can’t-sleep-in-a-hotel insomnia. I stayed in bed as long as I could, then I went through my morning routines as slowly as I could. Eventually, I slung my computer bag over my shoulder and headed into the wilds of Brooklyn, looking for a decent glass of iced tea.

After a few false starts, I ended up at the local Starbucks. The iced tea there isn’t especially great, but it is consistent, and they were sufficiently amused at my request for the “largest iced tea in New York.” Unsweetened, of course. I settled into a table near the window, plugged in, and began playing the part of obsessed writer lost in his work while at a Brooklyn coffee shop.

It was all an act.

I don’t know how people can work in an environment like that. Too much activity. Too many interesting people. Too much noise. Too much pulling me out of the imaginary sphere I must enter to get any writing done.

After surfing the internet for a while and writing some postcards to distant friends and other worthies, I finally settled into reading some of my stories with an eye to fixing this or that and just general editing. It was tough work. I had a hard time staying on task. Plus, I’ve found that I can best hear the cadences of my stories if I read them aloud, and even for an obsessed writer in a Brooklyn coffee shop, reading out loud is a bit much. I managed to mumble through them, half the time covering my mouth with my hand. I made a few changes in words, and I shifted a bit of description to a better place in one story. Overall, I didn’t really get a lot done.

But as an experiment, I suppose it was a success. At least I learned that I can never be a coffee shop writer.

As for the 10K, I completed it in record time (for me, though hardly a good pace by human standards). Got some swag. Got a bagel, a granola bar, a banana, and a bottle of coconut water (um, yeah) at the end. Then we carried our sweaty, gritty selves over to a diner where we got a sinfully bad breakfast (rebuilding muscles, don’t you know) before heading back to Brooklyn for some rest and a shower.

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5 Comments on “cliched experience”


  1. I’ve written at work in noisy cafeterias, and at another job where it was more quiet. It’s safe to say that what I put down was more structure than decent writing. While I can write in distracting environments, I don’t like it one bit.

    Congratulations on your personal best time in the 10K. The most I’ve ever run is four miles, so you get my respect! I think I could slog through a 5K, but it would not be a pretty sight!

    Oh, and I’m glad you ordered unsweetened iced tea. The thought of sweetened ice tea at any time is too much for me; I saw people have it with breakfast when I worked in Atlanta for two months and couldn’t imagine starting my day that way…

  2. LauraMaylene Says:

    I can work in coffee shops, but the ones I choose probably aren’t as busy as your typical Brooklyn cafe. Sometimes, the distance hum of sounds and having other people nearby actually spurs on my creativity. If things get too loud or boisterous, though, my attention is shot. (There is one bakery, for example, that I know to avoid between 8am-1pm on Saturdays because it’s just too busy.) But I do have to say that I have overheard some fascinating conversations that I write down verbatim and steal!

    Now that I’ve moved and have a writing room, I enjoy the quiet at home. I originally worried I wouldn’t be able to get much work done with the distractions of home, but it’s working out. (And it’s cheaper, too.)

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Surfing the Internet and writing to distant friends is probably what most of those writers are doing, too, so you probably fit in more than you realize.

  4. pete29anderson Says:

    I posted that last comment…not sure why I was allowed to do so anonymously.


  5. It is good you got to the Starbucks early because it gets completely packed with laptop workers in the afternoon. Brooklyn has a lot of freelancers and creative types!


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