- Books, Literature, and Writing
Coffee, Tea, or Muse--Finding the Right Place to Write
What is a Muse?
"Many artists, writers, poets and musicians have said that their creative work has been inspired by an individual whom they refer to as their muse. A muse is someone who has such an influence on another that he or she becomes the focus and inspiration for that person's creative work. The term has historically been used by men to describe the women that they have been in love with and made the subject of their work."
Your Muse and You
One of the most difficult tasks for a writer is to find a way to get in the right mood to sit down and write. Life has so many distractions and obstacles—and our minds simply have difficulty slowing down and focusing enough to write, and to do it on a daily basis.
Some people don't write because they are waiting for a muse. The muse, historically, has been a person who inspires the writer. However, most of us aren't so lucky as to have a person of inspiration falling into our laps. Unfortunately, many people wait for her and she never shows up. It's like the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot. It seems the longer you wait for your creative inspiration, the longer you will wait. So what's the answer?
Don't wait for a muse. Start writing without her. If you write, the muse will follow.
Don't Waste Time Watching Lame Videos
Whatever it takes--Just Write!
Time is too short to wait around all day for a muse to knock on you door and say, "Hello, this is your lucky day. I'm your creative muse. My name is Sheila."
Don't wait, just write. Just find a place to write and do it. Whether you have to cross yourself first or do a thousand jumping jacks as part of you pre-writing ritual, just write.
Writers historically have developed many odd pre-writing and writing rituals. They've done some weird things, but the bottom line is that they have written some great books as a result of these odd behaviors. For example:
William Faulkner sometimes wrote with a bottle of whiskey by his side. While the author of the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, could only write when he felt strong—doing push ups between writing sessions.
Truman Capote liked to write while lying down in his bed with his typewriter, while Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita standing up.
John Cheever churned out some great novels in his boxer shorts. Victor Hugo, of Le Miserables fame, took it a step further and wrote his stories in his birthday suit--in the buff.
I personally can’t see myself writing naked. My feet would get too cold and I have nosey neighbors.
Yerba Mate and My MacBook Air
I prefer bringing my MacBook Air to write in a Wi-Fi-friendly coffee house, even though I drink tea instead of coffee. Tea is my writing assistant. Depending on my mood, it might be yerba mate to increase mental energy, other times it might be jasmine green or mint; and when I'm feeling edgy, I sip on chamomile or orange hibiscus. I also like my tea heavy on the honey and in an enamel cup.
I find that the coffee house is both peaceful and stimulating. It seems that a good cup of tea helps to energize me just enough so I can write for two solid hours. I find that writing in my apartment, even with a hot cup of tea, doesn't always cut it.
Like my cat can’t poop in his carrier, I can’t write in my apartment. It is way too familiar and there is nothing novel or new to stimulate my brain. My four walls have the same pictures and the furniture hasn’t been re-arranged in years.
In the coffee house there are just enough people to look at and to stimulate my imagination. I'm relaxed, but not overly comfortable. It's a comfortable agitation necessary to write.
I go to three coffee houses in Santa Barbara. Each coffee house serves a different writing function for me.
Coffee House #1--Strickly Weekends
I go to the French Press on the weekends. It is right near the Farmer's Market and across the street from Antioch College. It is in the center of town, close to the beach, plenty of fresh air. It has a yuppie flavor with plenty of students from University of California--Santa Barbara. And it overflows with the upwardly mobile who like to talk real loud about their business ventures and their money transactions.
I prefer sitting outside in the warm sunshine, watching the palm trees sway with the ocean breezes. I bring my girlfriend, who usually reads magazines or reviews her e-mails that had been building up during the course of the week. I seem to feed off of her energy and presence and, as a result, get a lot of writing done. Besides, she's a great editor of my work and I can bounce some ideas off her.
French Press has an extensive list of herbal teas that are poured into big enamel cups along with a nice teapot. In addition, they have some great freshly-baked gluten-free pastries.
Coffee House #2-- La Mesa
When I feel the mood to check out the off-beat and the kookie and the laid back, I head down Los Pasitas and make a hard left turn and head up the hill to the La Mesa section of Santa Barbara. Off the main drag is the Good Cup coffee house. They have free Wi-Fi as well as an assortment of teas and coffees and foods to nosh on.
The Good Cup is also a walk to the beach and people often are wearing their beach attire, flip-flops, and sometimes shirtless. And once in a while you will see a crow walk in and scour the floor for some food droppings. But no one seems to notice.
There is a different energy in this coffee house. There's a lot of students but there are a lot of people on their computers or in passionate and animated conversation. There is plenty of seating inside and outside, but I usually sit inside because there's not much of a view outside unless you like looking at CVS or an organic supermarket called, Lazy Acres.
I enjoy the Good Cup on occasion to help stiumulate my creative energies that sometimes strange people can elicit.
Coffee House #3--My Neighborhood Grind
The coffee house I frequent the most with my Mac Air and my Canon Rebel is a popular spot where De La Vina becomes State Street, the Coffee Bean.
I enjoy walking there, often thinking about what I'm about to write, organizing my thoughts before putting them on the computer.
The Wi-fi is free and you don't have to log in. I usually get something called the African Rainbow, a herbal ice-tea blend. I get the medium size and that usually lasts me for a couple of hours.
The Coffee Bean is only a short walk from my house, down from Trader Joes. It's located on the corner so I can see a lot of cars and people pass by. There are plenty of tables and chairs outside with umbrellas for shade. It's a very comfortable patio that is backed up to the beautiful Santa Ynez mountain range.
When I write here, it feels that my prose is freer and more expansive, perhaps because of the open spaces. I also bring my camera because there are many odd occurrences that might pass by like a guy on a unicycle or freaky skate boarders or cool and unusual dogs and their owners. There's always enough stimulation to write, but it's also a good place to get some fresh air and sunshine.
Writing Doesn't Have to Be Boring
I'd be lying if I said that I didn't write at home. I tend to do a lot of editing at home or researching future writing projects. I tend to go from laptop, to the desktop and sometimes to the iPad. I find that a variety of writing behaviors helps me churn out more material. And that's the idea. The more I write, the greater chance I have at success.
The act of writing doesn't have to be a solitary behavior, either. It doesn't have to be lonely and boring. You don't have to be a depressed, megalomaniac writer. You can enjoy the process of writing. I find that when I leave to house to write, it feels more energizing and thought provoking. I tend to feed off the energy of the environment and the people.
Whether you write in a coffee house, a park, a library or in your car--just write. Whether you feel the need to write naked, inebriated or hanging upside down from a tree--just write. Don't wait for the muse, she might never come.
I would like to hear from others who might have a different process of writing or a different place where the creative juices might be flowing. I'd like to hear about your writing experiences.