Words, like birds, seem to float just out of reach on currents that move unseen. And the muse, as fickle an entity as history provides, is like clouds that shift and change, forming shapes but inherently unpredictable. Yet somehow, when muse and words come together, something good happens.
Writing is a solitary task, which means we suffer in silence and celebrate in a void. My better writing usually appears unannounced, at least not in any predictable sense. When in periods of constant writing, there always seems to be an improvement. “To write” implies constancy of habit, and to improve one’s writing requires a permanence of that habit. Although habit does not guarantee quality, it is the most reliable path to get there.
I am not the best judge of when my writing is good and when it is… well, less than good. Sure, I can see the distinction in a somewhat broad sense, but when someone says, “that’s good,” my response is usually, “really?” Then there are those ego-boosting moments when I think I have written something above the usual and the compliments come as frequently as winning Lotto tickets.
Perhaps whether the writing is good or bad matters little, and mostly is a verity all writers, amateur and pros alike, should embrace. After all, if the drive is there to write, most likely it is for reasons other than fame or fortune, for what sensible person would ever embark on a writing career thinking “I’m gonna get rich.”
For me, “where” I write is almost as critical as “when” I write. My preference has always been to write in places other than where I live or work, places outside the ordinariness of the ultra-familiar. I have written about café writing before, and while my habits have not changed drastically since early 2004, I have refined my art of café writing. In the past, I would seek a spot that mostly offered sitting comfort. Now I embrace a Feng Shui approach that goes beyond simple comfort, and I can sense when a spot feels right and when it does not. In the photo above, you can see how I camped in a corner on a recent trek to Panera’s. You’ll notice my back was to the wall, so bad writing could not easily sneak up unnoticed, and by a window so I could clearly see it if it slipped in! Oh, if it were only that easy…
The other refinement is I now invoke the white-cable-ear ritual when the place is noisy (and they are mostly ALL noisy). I used to think that café noises blended into a macabre white noise, with little real distraction. Add an increase in rude cell phone users over the years, chattier teenagers (or have I just aged a bit?), and the newest rage: satellite radio feeds, and I prefer to generate my own white noise. I can write in noisy places, helped by my iPod, which is quickly becoming as indispensable as my Moleskines.
Ultimately, I am no surer of why I prefer writing in a nomadic way than back in 2004. It just is. If I have work-related writing, I can be productive at home. For blogging and other non-work writing projects, however, I prefer to hit the road, find a café or bookstore, plug in, tune out, and write, write, write. The one remaining problem with café writing is, of course, pastries. While the old cliché says that an army travels on its stomach, there is no truth to the rumor that a writer fuels each chapter with German Chocolate Danish. At least, my waistline hopes not.