I’m lucky. My lovely bride concedes household geography to make sure I have my own space wherever we live. Early on, my space was always a darkroom. When I finally had to get serious about studying in college, I always had an office. While living in The Woodlands in Texas, eventually I shared the office with five dogs. By then I was busy doing too many things that stopped me from doing any writing, so the dogs got the room. The Great Dane, through the bars of his crate, ate my copy of The Gates of the Alamo.
Many writers, especially those still enchanted with the idea of being a writer, envision writing in coffee shops and bars, immersed in the currents and eddies of humanity and being a character on the stage of life. (Writing rule: Don’t mix your metaphors as I just did.) I’ve written in both, coffee shops and bars.
A coffee shop good for writers offers free WiFi, affordable coffee, and a suitable atmosphere. Starbucks sells their atmosphere, but the price of their coffee and the fact that I don’t really like how it tastes keeps me out of Starbucks unless they’re all I can find in a caffeine emergency.
Currently, my coffee shop of choice for working is Comma Coffee in Carson City, Nevada. It’s called Comma Coffee because, as stated on its website: “If life were a sentence Comma Coffee would be the comma… the pause… the breath… the break between two thoughts.”
I’ve worked there a few times and found it surprisingly productive. They have WiFi. They have reasonably priced coffee. They have a terrific, cluttered, and eclectic decor to feed a writer’s bohemian vibe. The clientele is interesting and not too annoying. Except when the legislature is in session. Then, there are too many suits on too many politicians and lobbyists and, unless talking quietly about political needs or wants, too many of those folks want to be heard when they talk. And, unlike the Mahjong folks who gather there, the talk is rarely interesting outside their own orbit.
Comma Coffee deserves another shout-out for having gallery space for local artists to show work and for having some live music events and drum circles. Thanks June for such a great place. It truly does offer a pause in the daily grind.
I think writing in a coffee shop makes me productive because I need to satisfy the demands of the role of a writer writing in a coffee shop, otherwise I’m just another cliché, the writer wannabe. The desire to be real makes me actually sit and write.
I’d write at Comma Coffee more often except for two reasons. First, my personal laptop succumbed to a coffee spill at the Daily Grind, a coffee shop in Rockport, Texas. I’m using my lovely bride’s laptop and she has nicely asked that I not take it out for coffee. Second, my companion throughout the day is Pip, my Jack Russell pup. He couldn’t sit inside with me at the coffee shop. Perhaps, when it warms up and he is worn out from a rousing morning at the dog park, we’ll go see if I can sit outside in Comma Coffee’s patio and have him be relatively calm enough to allow me to get some work done.
You can check out Comma Coffee here.
I’ve written a bit in the oldest drinking establishment in Nevada, the Genoa Bar. It’s a great bar. Plus, it is next door to my post office. For me, bars end up being way too social for writing. If I do go write in one of my local bars, I enjoy being a local character. You know, the writer who sits at the end of the bar and works, whiskey at hand. I try to dress appropriately. You get to know the other locals and a good, friendly bartender will find a reason to point you out to tourists. I’ve sold books that way. I try to have a couple with me and have my cell phone credit card reader available.
That last point is important. If you’re a writer faced with doing most of your own marketing efforts and you have something published to sell, always have business cards or bookmarks to hand out. If possible, have books with you available to sell. Trust me, if you engage someone in a coffee shop or bar and they get told you’re a writer, they’re going to ask what you’ve written. Have it ready to show them. Have it ready for them to buy.
One thing about coffee shops and bars, especially bars, you’re in a good place to be people watching. I’ve found inspiration for characters in the social atmosphere of good bars. I have a leather-clad motorcycle guy named Tiny standing in the wings to be a character as needed. He’s a process server and a bounty hunter. I sat and talked to Tiny’s inspiration at the Genoa Bar.
I’ve written in bars and coffee shops. I’ve written in the early morning on the deck of cruise ships. I’ve written on airplanes, something that is miserably difficult and often impossible unless you’re in first class. I’ve sat in parks and tried to write. But the place I do best is my office, a place I realize I am very lucky to have.
In my office I have a great desk, supplies, bookshelves with reference books and novels, music if I want it, coffee or whiskey available, kitchen facilities, a bathroom for which I never have to wait in line, and I can yell or scream out loud if necessary for some reason attracting only the attention of Pip, who accepts me regardless of things like irrational outbursts of frustration. I have a whiteboard and notepads and Post-It Notes on which I can record cryptic thoughts when inspired.
Here comes a photo tour of my workspace.
Welcome to my office. This is its doorway. Not only are those two bookshelves full of books and vinyl records kind of an interesting thing to see through the door, they serve an important purpose.
My wife is extremely well organized. Extremely. And particular about where things belong. As a house husband, I play a game. I usually clean some part of the house in the afternoon. Plus, I cook, I watch television. I live all day in the house. I play a game in which I watch her closely when she comes home from work. If she does not adjust the placement of something or find something out of place in the first five minutes she’s home: I win. I rarely win.
I am not a neat freak. My brain, being blessed with the higher thinking ability commonly called ADD, thrives on clutter and disorder. I do not immediately jump up to remove empty coffee cups to the dishwasher. Occasionally, perhaps, empty coffee cups will accumulate in the office. Paper is stacked here and there. Books are left unshelved. See that rug in the photo of the door to my office? If my wife needs to talk to me when I’m in the office, she stands on that rug. She cannot see my cluttered work area. Therefore, it does not irritate her. Avoiding irritation is how I’ve stayed married for over four decades.
Turn the corner around the bookshelves and this is the view. My desk. I love my desk. It is big with writing space and space for Pip to curl up in his desktop dog bed if he wants to hang out.
On the wall to the right is my whiteboard. If I could, that entire wall would be a whiteboard.
Lined up on the right of the desk, next to the wall, are books I have yet to read. As I write this there are fourteen. In the corner to the left are more bookshelves. The bottom shelf holds vinyl records. The next shelf up holds various reference books. The third one up holds more books that I haven’t yet read. They’re double stacked, front and back. There are probably fifty (the back row are all paperbacks). This is where I spend about twelve hours a day doing one thing or another, including some little bit of writing.
There’s my recliner used for reading, thinking, meditation, watching streaming videos, and sleeping. The bookshelf to the left holds almost all the Perry Mason novels ever published and another fifty books I have yet to read.
That shelf up next to the ceiling hold some of my stuff. Stuff like an unopened can of Billy Beer, some artwork from my kids, a microscope, coffee cups retired due to cracks, major chips, or broken handles, and a fifty-foot roll of Kodak Tri-X film I bought in 1980 and never opened. The shelf holds a sampling of family awards–my 1975 trophy for best photo at Howard College, my wife’s award for best biscuits at a family reunion (I might blog the story of that reunion one of these days), my daughter’s second place trophy in the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston in 1995 (Hey! Audobon Society of Houston, we’re still waiting on that scholarship money you awarded her.), and some equestrian awards won by the other daughter. That shelf drives my spouse crazy. My plaque for commemorating my award for the ugliest beard award during Western Week at Howard College in 1974 is on the wall behind me.
So, that’s where I write. I was going to go into what I use, but I’ll leave that for now. Perhaps it will be a subject of another blog in the future.
In my next Writing Journal blog, I’m going to talk about where I get ideas. After that these Writing Journals will become a record of my day by day efforts writing my next couple of books. I’m working on two at the same time. We’ll see how that goes.
Thanks for joining me here.