I’m a coffee shop writer. I’ve written five novels in coffee shops because they’re the only place I can write fiction. There’s something about the atmosphere and the availability of coffee that burrows deep into the headlands of my creativity and starts a stampede of words and ideas. I write for about an hour to an hour and a half each evening and get one to two pages (yep, I’m no Stephen King). Anywhere else and I might get a paragraph or two and on very rare occasions, a whole page. Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter what coffee shop or where it is…if it’s a coffee shop, the trail to the headlands is a six lane highway into story telling.
And yes, I’ve written about writing in coffee shops before; in fact, my last post covered some of the hurdles to overcome. But this post is about single writers who write in coffee shops and why they’re likely to remain single forever.
To begin with…being a writer is a sentence to singleness. I mean it. Most of the writers I know are single…and not necessarily happy about it. Some have fond memories of those days when they had someone special in their lives, someone who understood them and stuck in there in spite of long hours alone while their writer mate disappeared into the jowls of a coffee shop (we’re talking just about coffee shop writers here) to do mysterious things with words. They put up with the roller coaster of moods and lifestyle that brand writers as persona non cool. They looked the other way when the writer, foaming at the mouth and crazy-eyed, tried to explain the world-shaking ramifications of not being able to find the right word to describe Sam’s blue shirt.
“Just say it’s blue,” she says.
“But how will they know the blue?” he responds.
“By the use of the word blue,” she says.
“But how will they feel the blue,” he says.
“You only feel blue when you’re sad,” she says.
“You don’t understand me,” he cries.
“You’re making a mountain out of…” she tries to say.
“You’re just like the rest of them,” he yells.
And suddenly, he’s single. And not necessarily happy about it.
The same things happen to female coffee shop writers, proving there’s no gender inequality when it comes to losing at love, especially if you can sneak a bit of the loss into a story.
There’s something about creating worlds with words that takes you out of everybody else’s world and plops you into a place that only exists in your own mind, like when I was talking to a group of co-workers while I was working on my first novel. I started talking about a man called Baxter. The others looked at me in a strange way, like my head had just fallen off. One of them said, “Who’s Baxter?”
It suddenly dawned on me that Baxter was one of the characters in my novel. That’s how real he’d become and how unreal the world of my co-workers had become. Sadly, this didn’t discourage me from writing; in fact, it probably spurred me on. Something along the lines of OK, I’ve lost it with these people, so what do I have left? Oh right…Baxter and friends.
Writing is a deep uncharted pit with a shallow slope that slants ever more precariously as you slide into it. It leads into a place where a blue shirt is deep sea or sky blue, not just blue. A place where nothing is whole until the last draft, or until an editor has a better idea for blue. It’s a place where you can get lost, where you can drift away from everything that’s known into a great unknown that you get to arrange and rearrange until you’re satisfied that it’s the right color of blue.
It is. And it’s not like those writers who write at home where the better half (at least, saner half) can pop in say, “Hi, how’s it going?”
“What’s another way of saying blue?”
“Just write blue. I think people will get it.”
“You don’t understand me.”
“Don’t stay up too late.” Door closes. Writer is alone to stew in blue. Until bed time.
But for some, the coffee shop calls out to us and off we go, single and bursting with words under the brilliant azure sky.