Wednesday, April 21, 2010
A Café of One's Own
I wrote my first book on cross-country flights, at my desk at 5AM, on my bed when sick – practically anywhere. Since then I’ve completed Smasher and two other manuscripts at a café in a hotel a few minutes walk from my house.
Why? At home, when I try to write, I inevitably find myself sucked into email or some siren of a website. Even when I think I’m doing research in Wikipedia or whatever, I look up and find thirty minutes have gone by without a word written. When at the café, I’m not connected to the Net. (The hotel charges $15 to connect to WiFi, which for all intents and purposes means it’s not available.) If I need to look something up, I just mark my manuscript with an “XX” and fill it in after doing the research at home.
The café staff could not be more supportive of my authorial endeavors. When I come in, I’m greeted by name, the music is turned down, and my tea is brought to me. When the café changed beverage purveyors to one who did not carry the tea that fueled my writing engine, the manager arranged to continue getting a special stash of the old tea; it sits in solitary splendor with my name on it in the manager’s office. When the screen on my laptop stopped working, the hotel IT guy spent two hours with me trying to fix it. The general manager of the hotel stopped by last week to introduce himself.
I write there for hours and my teapot is refreshed and refilled. No one seems to mind that I only buy one pot of tea. I wear noise-canceling headphones and look as dorky as can be (see above), but since this is Silicon Valley no one cares. I find the hubbub of quiet music, high tech powwows, and chatting hotel guests to provide a white noise background to write against.
Two weeks ago I had a birthday lunch there. My sister made sure everyone knew what day it was. The on-duty manager told her, “Of course, he’s having his birthday here. He’s family.”
I’ve given away a box of signed books to say thank you. I set a scene in Smasher in the café. Ian Michaels is lucky enough to be served by Marissa, who often serves me.
Although I used to be able to write anywhere, no longer. The words don’t come to me unless I’m in my café floating along on a sea of (my special) green tea. I love the place and the people who work there.
Do any of you write away from home? Away from the Internet? At a café?