Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Perfect Cup of Superstition

Each writing spot I frequent away from my desk has its own vibe. When it matches with my mood for the day, it's pure page-cranking bliss. When it doesn't, it feels like a note of discord I can't quite put my finger on. It's crazy, really, to hang productivity on a place's atmosphere or lack thereof, but it does play beautifully into the whole writer's superstition thing.

One place is a wanna-be of the Starbucks down the road. It's proximity to the burbs brings in a steady traffic of geriatric men discussing politics and housefraus discussing skin care lines. The kind of place where the menopausal baristas would donate a kidney to you. Last week, I had to endure a big band version of Van Halen's Jump piped through the sound system. Not my most productive day. Geographically appealing, but gets demarcation for vanilla people-watching and no prime writing real-estate near the back. Productivity grade: C

Spot number two is the largest Starbucks I've ever been in. A four-foot two barista with blond hair spiked like a porcupine pipes up the moment you enter. Like a door chime, but infinitely more annoying. I don't go there often enough for her to know what I want, but I could always use whatever happy pill she downed before work. This is my favorite spot when it rains. Hand painted, blown-glass shades hover over each table, especially a delicious little nook all by itself, and the life beyond the glass is filled with people interrupting the puddles that collect on the imperfect sidewalk. Productivity grade: A

Coffee shop three is an off-chain populated by the high-school version of the rugby team. Bizarre patterns of facial hair can't hide the fact that their little click is circling the drain of contributions to society. Oh, they hide behind beatnik Friday-night amateur music night and local artisan's paintings climbing the walls, but it falls to pretentious and self-indulgent. Geographically, if I'm aerobically ambitious, I could walk to it, but the spilled coffee bean sacks as ambiance interferes with my left-brain's sense of order. Productivity grade: C-

Lastly, I attempt the library on occasion. Extreme enough distance that I can't bargain with myself to drive home and nap when the pages aren't coming. With gas $3.18 a gallon here, I'm totally committed to the endurance page-count marathon. And, although I don't have to endure show tunes or complaint pop music, the ancient air conditioner and the body functions of someone in the stacks twelve rows down ricochets against my creativity. The fiction section also functions as a magnetic force field of temptation, almost justifiable as "market research." Productivity grade : C

Am I too picky? Quite possibly. But these places do serve as a good reminder of my well-worn chair, holey slippers, and beverage perfection waiting for me at home.

What about you? What's your favorite spot and why?


Jen FitzGerald said...

Hi Laura ~

I haven't quite taken the leap to pack up my laptop and try writing someplace other than home. I have my desktop/work PC in our office, and my laptop set up at a sofa table in front of a window in my bedroom. When the knees get too stiff, I can easily move to my bed and stretch them out. I prefer my room where I shut the door, light the candles, and turn on the classical music.

And I haven't gotten around to trying different types of music to help me write different emotions.

I will be staying at the Southfork Hotel with my critique partners on Friday. I'm not attending the conference, but it will be my first foray away from home to write.

Michelle said...

Hi Laura,
It's always nice to read/hear about people using the library! And I can understand it has too many distractions for serious writing. I work at one and almost every day pick up a book or magazine to take home. I'm not a writer, but I am a big reader. My favorite spot for reading is my home office. It gets great sunlight and is always warm - even during the cold winters (and springs and falls:) The couch is soooo comfy and there is an end table to hold my cup of tea.

Katie Reus said...

My home office! In a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, I can totally relax w/out any interruptions. There are three windows that provide the best amount of natural light, I have a great view, and my dog lays next to me on her bed (as moral support). Although, there is a lake downtown that I'll occasionally go to w/ a notebook and free-write. Sometimes when I need a jump start on creativity, being outside surrounded by nature motivates me. I'm impressed that you visit coffee shops and are productive. I think I'd get so distracted by people watching I wouldn't get anything done :)

L.A. Mitchell said...

Can't wait to see you there :)


Hey, girl! Good to hear from you. I do think of you each time I step into a library. If I had the view you must have out your window, I wouldn't leave home, either :)


Funny you should mention that. There was a old guy at the next table this afternoon who kept staring up from his paper at me like he wanted to strike up a conversation. It took non-novel writing brain capacity to appear totally lost in thought. But, I still reached my word count. I should have sicked the porcupine-quill girl on him.