Friday, February 19, 2010

Writer Myth, Writer Magic

I had a weird week, so I decided to take a break from my ‘normal’ every day world, and do a full day of being a writer. Immersion therapy. I needed to freshen up, and get going with finishing my current book. Only 6 – 10 chapters to go, so really, what was the obstacle other than life itself?

I took a day off from work, woke up with a plan and set it in motion. Feed the Muse. Part of the menu? Visit a local café in downtown, a very bohemian place with outstanding atmosphere, tea and cofee to die for, and cupcakes. Yes. BIG CUPCAKES. Flavour Café & Lounge is in a brick brownstone, filled with local art, a lot of yummy stuff, a bunch of off beat things, a fab couch, and just a good overall vibe. I grabbed a spot at a big table in the second room, sipped my Mayan Chai tea, sugared up on my enormous cupcake (This was my lunch. I had to feed the muse, right? Well the muse is a damn picky eater!) Got the lap top out, and went to work.

The goal was to get out of my normal environment and cause a jolt in the creative pattern, get the juice going to get the words on the page. Now what is weird, writing in a café has NEVER held appeal for me. In fact, it’s been sort of standing joke. Only tortured literary writers go to cafes to write. They write long epic stories that go no where, and lament the unbearable lightness of being. They write poetry no one gets. They drink lots of coffee but it never perks them up. These are the folks who write in cafes. Besides, writing in the café, that is the stuff of writer lore. Like part of our writer collective unconscious. A story carried from generation to generation of writer since stylus found clay tablet. The writer’s myth. Not the writer reality. Or the writer truth. And yet, I decided to do it anyway. Falling back on some primal author instinct, and I had to wonder why?

If the draw was so strong, then beyond the cliché, there must be fire beneath the smoke. Always up for a challenge, I put it to the test. And I have to say, I understand now why it is such an enduring part of the author's mythic schema: because things got going, words got down on the page, the story trotted along nicely, and I got a sugar rush that could power ten space shuttles and a runaway bus.

The café is busy at a steady pace, people in and out, at tables, at the couch, talking, eating, working on computers or cell phones, but I found it a soothing blend that allowed me to drift out of the heavy reality of the world, and relax into my storytelling. This writer’s myth, it is passed on the way it is passed on because it has merit and bears fruit.

Now, I got it going on for about an hour, when life came to call. Had to meet with my contractor about renovations. So I drove back up the hill, had some fun picking out what would be done to the master bath, and then decided I’d had such success earlier– let me try the writing in a café experiment, but this time in another café. This was an uptown café, or more appropriately, a suburban glam café. Set in a strip mall, very chic décor, nothing rogue going on. I had a cup of decaf, not so great. I sat in an overstuffed chair with a candle at my table, but somehow, the atmosphere was thin. I did get words on paper, the right ones too, and the story marched on, but I suspect I was working off the previous buzz. I found the surroundings a distraction I had to work through.

Part cliché, part mythic act, writing in the café taught me a valuable lesson today: In finding a place that is not the normal place you create, yet one that allows you safe passage into the headspace writers enter when they need the words to flow, the spark of creation ignites. I imagine for some writers, Flavour would be a bad fit, and the place up the hill, Nirvana. I learned too, that on coming home, the perceived block wasn’t an obstacle anymore. I bet you can get the same in a library, a park, a corner bar. But the café has that enduring mystique, and it stands as marker for all those other places that are not your normal haunt, but carry a certain allure, charm and cache, and allow you to duck, if only for a few hours, the slings and arrows of the normal mortal world for a far more satisfying adventure in the land of your story.

There is merit to our writer’s myth, and sometimes we need to go into that innermost cave of creativity via an entrance located in a café off the beaten path, where the tea is always hot and the cupcakes always at the ready.

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