I want to start 2016 off with a blank slate. I disappointed myself with my lack of stick-to-it-ness in posting last year, so let’s start again… New blog design, new photo, new about me (coming soon I promise) but same blog title. Thanks for following, and hopefully much more to come.
Happy New Year!
Remember a few months ago I wrote about signing myself up for a 5K run … No? Well, here is a reminder. Anyway, I completed the race and figured out a few things along the way.
- Cute Shoes Matter.
- Having a Buddy Helps.
- My Time is Good Enough.
In other words, I wore an old pair of sneakers because I was afraid to buy new ones just before a race. Bad move. I got a blister from my old (supposedly broken in) shoes. They just were not the right ones for this road run. I now have a new pair of adorable shoes that are much more comfortable.
I also convinced a friend to sign up for the run too. It was more fun to have someone to run with, and someone to help you keep a steadier pace. Also great to have a brunch buddy who is also sweaty for after the run!
Last thing, the run was chip-timed. I spent more time than I should admit looking up finish results from years past. Checking finish times for ladies in my age group against my own pace. I should not have done this. Sure you don’t want to sign up for a race that only caters to professional runners if you are a newbie, but this was a Saturday morning charity race. Next time I will worry more about beating my own pace and letting the other numbers go.
Yesterday I scooped up my laptop, grabbed a floppy sun hat and headed for the roof deck of my building. This was the day!I was going to start outlining the story that’s been percolating for a few weeks. I found a deck chair in the shade, facing the river, where I kicked off my shoes, opened my laptop, created a new doc and… nothing.
What is my problem? I was an English major in college, so I’m able to string a few words together. I even took creative writing courses! I wrote articles for my school newspaper, so I’m not afraid to have people read the words I’ve written. I also have a job that requires quite a bit of writing. So why is it that when I turn to story or essay writing I choke?
Instead of writing chapter one, I sat on my roof, watching the sky fade grey and contemplating this conundrum. And my conclusions are this … my writer’s block is fear based. Writing an article or drafting a document at work allows me to hide behind form, convention, and facts. The information is prescribed, I just need to make it flow. However, fiction is a wide open space waiting to be cultivated into anything. And that is where the problems starts and also the questions… Do I have a right to tell a story like this? Does this character seem to resemble my friend? Will people assume this is how I actually feel about said issues, when it is really just a character’s perspective? Is the plot too subtle? Too boring? Too poorly written?
Somehow in the last few years I’ve lost my writing nerve. It may take a bit of work, but my writing will turn out pretty boring unless I start taking a few risks.
So here’s hoping I get it back.
What is the best environment for doing work? Do you prefer the staid silence of the library, the beeping-ringing-rushing of an office, the coziness of your own home? Everyone has an atmosphere that promotes the intersection of their own concentration and creativity.
For me it’s a coffee shop. When I focus on a project, I enjoy action around me, but not involving me. There is music, there are people. Being at a coffee shop makes me feel like I’m connected to the world, not locked away all day in a room with my computer. Yet, I can still convert all the music and chatter into background noise while I write or plan or organize.
Obviously I’m not the first person to discover the creative power of the coffee shop. Visit a cafe on any given day, and it is usually full of readers, writers or students with laptops and books scattered over the table tops. Coffee shops and cafes also have a historical presence as homes of great thinkers and literary scholars.
My love of coffee shops began while living in Edinburgh. I began to study at a coffee shop, the Elephant House, on the George IV bridge. The same cafe known for where J.K. Rowling wrote the first books of a certain popular series about british wizards. Sitting at a table in the back room, overlooking the Edinburgh castle and graveyard below, I can certainly see how she was inspired!
Here are some of my favorite coffee shops in Philly:
- Chapterhouse – 9th & Bainbridge
- L’Aube – 17th & Wallace
- Ray’s Cafe – 9th & Cherry
- Cafe Ole – 3rd & Quarry