Posted in Reading & Writing

People, Places, and Other Things That Ruin My Writing

I’m at Starbucks, where I go to escape my caterwauling children and get some time to write. Every Saturday, every Sunday, the same seat in the corner near the electrical outlet unless I’ve had too rough a night with the baby and end up running late. Three Word documents open: the current draft, the previous draft, and something titled “What Happens Next” to keep me on track with the plot. Triple venti mocha today, nonfat with whipped cream. I always splurge when I have a star reward.

There’s a man next to me, one small table between us, typing and typing like he does every Sunday, the clicks coming quickly considering he’s missing several fingers on his left hand. He reminds me of someone from college and I probably look at him more than I should when the work pauses. He wears a blue windbreaker. A stack of books on his table, from a glance: a day planner, a notebook, a Bible.

There are always Bibles here on Sundays. Saturdays, too, actually. Sometimes I hear their owners talking religion, sometimes they are quiet. Sometimes twenty-something women come in with high school girls and seem to mentor them in the ways of the church. I listen in too much, the world of my novel too airy at this point–cracks in the masonry, missing a roof–the world gets in. My mind walks out over the fields and into other people’s conversations, leaving my characters to sit, waiting, where we had been toiling together to get from one scene to another. They deserve a break. I don’t like white space, don’t like skipping too much time, smacking my Frodo over the head with a stick and finding him next chapter, waking up after the battle. I’d rather fatten my manuscript than starve it, only to find it needs fluids later. I’m a fan of metaphors that don’t always work. Too many em dashes, colons, semicolons, commas without conjunctions. Knowing the rules, I like to break them. Like to dance around in language a little, bits and pieces I will cut chop mince my manuscript into tartare, which is not a dish I enjoy but I do like food imagery. I make myself hungry. I am always hungry. I could eat a box of donuts without blinking, one hand sticky with glaze while the other hunts and pecks, a good excuse for how slowly the words are coming.

I am planning to build a writing room, trick out a shed: a box full of bookcases, books, paper, computer, me. A room of my own. Necessary for writing. For sanity. The Starbucks is nice but there’s a man possessed of a powerful odor who sits next to me sometimes, and sometimes there are no seats, or groups of teenagers talking loudly while I pretend not to listen. I will build it in hours when I should be writing, and when I have it, I’ll have fewer excuses. I won’t smell like coffee as often, won’t talk about my babies with the barista. We were pregnant together, she and I, though I can’t bring to mind her name. She appeared in my dream last night, the Starbucks crumbling around us like a ruin. I wanted to set up a play date for the girls. She changed the subject. I woke up to the sound of my children screaming yes! no! yes! no! back and forth, their favorite game.

I can’t get my characters in a room together. They love each other, or they will. When I think of them, my brain stops. The man next to me stands up and stretches. The baristas mill about, waiting for another customer. My mocha is getting cold. I need an asteroid, a meteor. The man talks to me–nearly mistakes my computer cord for his own. He’s a pastor. Asks me if I come here every day or just Sundays. I tell him about my kids. I’m as far from working as I could possibly be. The group of teenage girls and their mothers who were here last week just walked in. I should get started building my shed. Or maybe I won’t build it at all.

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