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My Cliché of Choice

May 26, 2009

I had a different post planned for today—a wandering post about the value of a writing partner. But Paul’s and Jodi’s posts of the past two days—as well as the fact that I couldn’t stop said post from wandering—have led me to this post in its stead.

It’s important—perhaps even critical—for a writer to find a place that stimulates and nurtures his creativity. If you’re lucky enough you’re ideal spot will be at home. But Paul detailed the greatest threat to this set-up—the immediacy of the internet. Add to that a family, or the lack thereof, and the home office may be anything but creative.

So where does one write?

In a frightful nod to the cliché the best place for me to write has always been a café.

The most creative times in my life have been spent inside cheap—inexpensive, not run-down—restaurants. The Wag’s (if you never had Wag’s in your area, it’s not far removed from a Denny’s) on Biscayne Boulevard, down the street from the University, saw an incredible number of late-night pencil-and-paper sessions. And not just creative sessions, but study sessions of all sorts.

The café in question (although if you’ve ever been to a Wag’s you’ll know that café is a more than generous term) had the misfortune of having all the traits that make a location perfect for me:

  • Open 24 Hours: Truth be told I could have cared less about the sunrise to sunset hours. But it was happily open for my mt creative hours.
  • Busy: That is to say there was plenty of activity. A nice steady din is critical to a creative environment, and the groups of people coming and going allowed for plenty of people-watching and lent their quirks to more than a few characters.
  • But Not too Busy: So I didn’t have to feel guilty for tying up a table for hours at a time, and I could always get a big table to spread out my papers and textbooks.
  • Cheap Food: Dinner a drink and tip all for about $10.
  • Good Air Conditioning: In Miami, when the dorms don’t have adequate air conditioning this is not a minor point.
  • Waitresses: They were nice enough, kept the iced tea filled, and weren’t attractive enough to be distracting.

I list these reasons (well…hopefully because it’s at least mildly amusing) not under any assumption that the reasons will apply to you, but because Jodi asked us what our ideal writing space would be.

I don’t understand people who can write in a beautiful vacation spot. How Thoreau got any work at all done at Walden Pond baffles me. I’d spend my time sleeping in, hiking, maybe fishing…anything but working. But that’s me. My “café” wouldn’t be your ideal environment, and your writer’s retreat would be a terrible drain on my will to write.

But both Paul and Jodi are correct It’s vital that you determine what you need to be creative, and that you find—or create—a place that fits your needs.

Writers generally aren’t allowed many clichés, but we all have a few tucked away in a drawer somewhere. Writing in a café is one of mine.

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Dale lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his fiancée and four step-childrenHe has yet to fin the perfect writing spot in Raleigh, and tries to make due with a small desk in the corner of a darkened room, with a snoring Shih Tzu and his feet.
  1. May 26, 2009 2:51 am

    My favourite out of home place to write is a cafe in New Farm called “Cirque”. I would go there once a week last year because it forced me to write. There’s no internet connection, the food is wonderful, I was always able to get a seat with a power point, the staff always friendly (one was particularly handsome as well!) and for around $20.00 I could sit there for most of the day. Cheap serviced city office space! Cirque is always business too earlier on in the morning with the breakfast and brunch crowd – meaning I never felt guilty about taking up space.

    I have to also admit to liking the the romance of writing in a cafe. Didn’t Proust sit at the same cafe, at the same table to do all his writing? And I liked being thought of “as a writer” in that very public space. For me as a stay at home Mum for almost all my time here in Brisbane it was like slewing off one identity and taking on another.

    The last time I was there, one of the long standing wait staff asked me how my sci-fi novel was going (harkening back to NaNo last year) It pushes the feel good buttons in me, the buttons which say “I am a writer. People see me as a writer.” It reinforces the identity for me.

    I have found since I now carrying around loose leaf sheets of paper in my back back I am writing more in odd places – but the cafe will always be my favourite. I just need to find a good one a little closer to home 🙂

  2. May 27, 2009 6:58 am

    I’ve always wanted to sit in a cafe and write, but I never had the guts. I’m too conscious about people watching me write, which is weird because I’m usually an extroverted person in other areas, liking compliments and such.

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