Monday, March 29, 2010

Solitary, Solitude

Writing for me is mainly a solitary activity. I do my best thinking when I’m alone, music and TV off or at the least turned to something I can ignore. Baxter – long-suffering beagle – can be by my side, but only if he promises to keep his snoring to a minimum. Will – long-suffering husband – generally keeps to another room when I’m writing, lest he be subjected to my nasty-but-well-meant (“Can’t you see I’m working?”) comments. There are only two humans in my house and three bedrooms, but sometimes I long for a little cabin or shack or shed or teepee out back, where I can seriously retreat from the rest of life.

Failing that, I go to the Queen Bean, a little coffeehouse on 14th. It’s not solitude, but since the music stays in the background and the people basically keep to themselves, it’s the next best thing. It’s solitude’s slightly more populous cousin with endless access to caffeine.

I have a favorite spot: an interior table with a lamp and access to a power strip. I have a favorite drink: a non-fat chai latte (writing is not only solitary, but sedentary, after all). If I do hit it big someday, the ‘Bean gets a mention in the acknowledgements (the way it has in my other blog), because in this funky little converted house, I’ve done some of my best writing. At least half of my novel was written here, in between spurts of checking my email (free wi-fi has become quite a problem, really) and staring out the window at a tree I keep meaning to classify. When I’m brushing up against a deadline, I head right for the ‘Bean and order myself not to move from my seat, the way I can’t seem to do at home, where laundry lurks in unsightly piles and there is always a dish waiting to be washed or gunk in the corners of the sink begging for close attention with a toothpick.

Somehow sitting in the ‘Bean gives me this romantic feeling, like I’m an ex-pat at a Paris café, two tables down from Jake Barnes. Everyone here seems artsy in one way or another, committed to their craft. Even the guy next to me, studying 3 x 5 cards printed with the tiny, precise lettering of an engineer, is poised for greatness. The woman who needs to be reminded to take her cell phone outside is some sort of editor, complete with thick-framed glasses and a sweet little iMac. On weekends, I bump into the graphic novelist who knows my husband but can never seem to remember my name. That’s fine; judging by his portfolio, he’s a talented artist. Judging by his conversation, he’s a bit of a pig. If I get stuck in my writing, I can always eavesdrop and transcribe a conversation from a nearby table. I’m still waiting to find a place in my writing for the guy who says to the girl, quite earnestly, “So, what’s your backstory?” How true! I remember thinking. We all have a backstory…

Today, I type this while waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s an exercise more than anything else, a few dry brush strokes that will give way to the bigger picture. In a minute I might give in and check my email or bring my cup to the counter for a re-chai. But for now I sit back and breathe it in, this almost-solitary solitude.

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