A Tour of Duty

Thanks to Artist a Day


Location, location, location. The saying is just as applicable to writing as it is to real estate. Gone are the days when you parked your typewriter in a dimly lit room and hacked away at the keys, breaking only for coffee and cigarettes as you churn out an assembly line of essays or columns. Nowadays there are hotspots and workstations everywhere–you can even log in at McDonald’s with your quarter pounder and dollar tea if you so choose. With the expanse of opportunities for differing work environments and the portability of my MacBook Pro, it seems a shame not to explore a few of them.

The Coffee Shop

I have always struggled to find inspiration when I venture out into the coffee shop milieu, though it is exactly that environment in which I thrive when I do. I’ve definitely had to search for the right one, notable as much for their clientele as their hot drinks (no loud high school kids or overexuberant work-from-homers on sales calls and if their coffee tastes like ass, they can kiss mine goodbye). The most important criteria on placing my chips down at a particular java house, though one I’ve been most lax on, is how much writing I’ve accomplished on any given workday. I usually give a joint a couple of passes before I’ll mark it off my list. After all, it’s only fair considering the ebb and flow of a writer’s work—especially since a really good day for eye candy generally equates to a really bad day for output. But really…beautiful, soulful men in search of coffee absolutely must count for something, as long as it doesn’t become too much of a distraction. Then the joint isn’t crossed off the list completely. It just becomes one that I visit on occasion as a tiny little treat to me and my vagina.

The Cafe

A friendly cousin of the coffee shop, this is where you go when a slice of pumpkin bread won’t cut it. Sometimes we need a little more to fuel our creative process and a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup is exactly what’s on the menu. The cafes around here are, in my experience, prime real estate. Especially those tables with an outlet. You also have to have an unbelievably thick skin to be able to brush off the scornful looks of the lunch crowd, who are ready to pelt you with their whole-grain baguette slice to free up a table. I only brave the cafe between 2 and 5 when the after-school tutors are meeting with their clients and nobody’s getting their panties in a wad because I finished my panini an hour ago.

The State of Desperation

When I was without internet at my house for an ice-age-long two weeks, I found myself a nice little spot at the public library where I could check in at all hours of the night. It was parking space #2 next to the handicapped space and the signal reached just fine. For my blog posts, which were scant at the time, I composed at home and simply uploaded. But I am also counted on to be witty in my facebook statuses and tweets too, so a bit of improvising had to take place. With my seat pushed all the way back and the color changing speaker lights flashing to the beat of the music, I spent many a nine o’clock hour checking into my social networks and keeping an online presence. It reminded me of, well, nothing, because I haven’t ever had to work in that cramped of a space. But for a few brief moments I kind of felt like a beatnik in a dark corner of a smoky cafe. Only with a gearshift.

One interesting perk to the pilfered signal outside the library was I got lots of fodder for future stories. From the group of emo tweens who were late for curfew to the soccer mom who pulled over on her way home from Kroger for either some much-needed girl talk or a secreted conversation with her daytime lover. And let’s not forget the middle-aged suburban couple who pulled over for a quick bj after the Journey concert. Okay. So I made that last one up. But it would’ve been totally awesome. Especially in Loveland!

The Tried and True

My backup location, which considering the amount I’ve time I’ve spent composing there lately should really be my primary locale, is my king-size bed. When the kids are home, it’s the only place I can write because my work hours are between ten and midnight, or one if I’m really on a roll. I have Jolie’s head next to me as a nice little elbow rest while I crank out a post or brainstorm some future ideas. When the kids aren’t home, sometimes I’m just so lazy that I don’t feel like getting out of bed. And the best way to justify staying in bed so that I don’t quickly categorize myself into being on a downslide into depression is to think of something to write. I can spend a good two hours brainstorming while tucked under the comfy-coziness of my down alternative comforter. And after I have spent so much time creating a silly string thread of a plot line, I don’t want to cut it abruptly by changing locations. So my laptop gets propped in my lap and I weave those words into something publishable. At least on my website. It’s not that uncommon for me to spend five or six hours outside of normal sleep time in my bed working. John and Yoko and I would’ve gotten along just fine.

So location…does it really make a difference? I have written some utter nonsense at Starbucks (where I’m currently writing) as well as some real gems. My bed has produced my best work (both in writing and in living human beings), but also some pieces I hope nobody will ever read. Panera has given me a full tummy, a crap poem,  and, well, not much else. But their soup is really good! I guess it matters not where I write just as long as I do. And for each day in September, I do.

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