I’m writing this in a small, hip, yet not over the top diner near my apartment.
It’s one of my favorite places. I can walk here when the weather’s nice (which it usually is). I know the servers and the managers. My poor math skills result in them getting tipped well, and they give me a free dessert or a cup of tea occasionally. It has a nice bar with cushioned seats (don’t underestimate cushioned seats, sitting for more than 45 minutes on a wooden chair is difficult – I think it’s one of the ways certain places keep their clientele from lounging indefinitely).
When it comes to work, I try and do so away from my apartment more than in it. It seems like my days rotate in the same cycle. Usually it’s me at home between breakfast and lunch, a coffee shop in the afternoon, and then the diner (or some other spot) in the evening.
But wherever it is, someone there usually gives me a very specific glance as I’m typing away. Today’s no exception. It’s made only slightly less disheartening due to the fact that it’s a very cute red head, post-workout in a well thought out Lululemon ensemble, with green eyes and a little fuzzy dog whose name I think is “Merlin”.
I’d like to believe she finds the sight of me in my black henley and Clark Kent glasses irresistibly alluring in a Mark Ruffalo kind of way, but I can tell what’s really going on. She knows what’s up, and she’s amused by it.
I’m a writer in a coffee shop. A walking cliché.
Like film school grads working in a video store or super villains who say things like, “Before I kill you, there’s something you should know…”
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for more than a year now, and the experience of writing in the outside world here is much different than where I moved from. There, the ratio of “writers” to normal patrons was much lower. It was like spotting some infamous sea creature or the chupacabra.
But in L.A., the shops and diners are full of writers, their gazes boring into their Macbook screens. It means you blend in more, the looks are tempered, and most people don’t even give you a second glance.
But you still get the first glance, usually. And it always reminds me of this.
The truth is…I can only get so much done at home. Those walls are too familiar. And it’s so quiet. There’s no energy there. For whatever reason, I have to get out of my own space and into somewhere not my own.
I don’t know why that makes a difference, but it totally charges me. I’m much more productive in an environment where there are other people, and conversations are flying past, and its clear the world is spinning around you. So much of creating is tapping into the flow of life, I think, and it seems like it’s only by surrounding myself with it that I can really create at a peak level. Which is ironic, given that it all usually fades into the background when I’m working. It’s like my subconscious feeds off the hustle and bustle, and it sustains me through the process.
And it’s not just writers. I know software engineers, web designers, photographers, production supervisors, professors, even a psychologist, who all prefer to work in places like these. I assume it’s for the same reasons.
The way I see it, belonging to a stereotype isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re on a definite path, one that’s been traveled by similar people before you. It’s kind of comforting, really.
All that really matters is that you know why you’re there. Most of us don’t want a neon sign above our heads brightly flashing “I’m a Writer” for everyone’s edification. We’re there because we need to be, because we feed off the environment and it propels us forward. Writing is such a strange, internal process anyway, don’t start second guessing what works because of a few odd looks.
Besides, there’s nothing wrong with drawing the attention of cute red heads and their dogs, either. Mine just glanced at me again. I give her back a knowing smile. “What’s with all the yoga people in coffee shops? It’s like a cliché.” She smiles back.