On the Act of Public Writing
Today, I’m one of THOSE people. I’m sitting here in my favorite Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop with a big, iced, heavily-caffeinated drink. I have my laptop open, my headphones on, and I’m writing in public. There are all kinds of perceptions that people might have of a person busily typing away on a laptop in a coffee shop, not all of which are positive. Mind you, I’m only one of, like, eight people here doing the same thing; the free wi-fi at Coffee Bean is kind of awesome. Still, when you walk into your average trendy coffee shop, and you see someone busily tapping away at a keyboard, one often has to wonder if that person is writing in that particular place so that they can get recognition for being a writer.
Unlike a lot of other vocations, writing can have a lack of social perks. It’s a solitary pursuit, peer groups and signings notwithstanding. The vast majority of a writer’s time is spent in the singularly personal act of writing. There are ancillary tasks to writing of course, like research and the eternal search for inspiration. Still, these tasks are often just as solitary, if not more so, than the act of writing itself. For the most part, when I’m writing, I’m in “the command center.”
I call it “the command center” because, over time, it’s come to be like some kind of super-villain lair. I’ve been blessed by angel investors with the kind of equipment that I could only have dreamed of a few years ago. There are two big computer monitors, each slaved to a different desktop system. One of them is the workhorse for the creative work, and the other is my communications server; it also handles my entertainment. The communications server also drives the flatscreen television up on the wall, in case I need to watch (or show) a movie or something. The creative server also drives a big ol’ Wacom Cintique monitor/tablet. Because a lot of the creative work has me flowing from 3D graphics to Photoshop to writing to page layout (often all at the same time), it would strain the creative server to also be handling my web browsing, music, media, and e-mail. It’s all incredibly useful, and I couldn’t do the work that I do without it. It’s also a very solitary workstation.
It’s tucked into a corner. I have a window, but I’m usually facing straight into the corner, surrounded by walls. I love my big armchair recliner that I work in (mostly because it coddles my ruined spine), but it all just contributes to me focusing straight ahead. I don’t do well with distractions, it seems. I blame my ADHD; as long as I can hyper-focus, I can get things done. Still… lonely. Even when I have someone else in the office with me, they’re either too distracting to allow me to work properly, or I ignore them completely to work.
I love “the command center,” and I have to leave it every so often. Today is one of those days. I finished a project this morning, but I’m still on the creative “jazz.” I’m trying to get back up on the horse after having been off for a few weeks, so the more I write the better. So, here I sit, in a coffee shop, on a laptop.
I call the laptop “Away Office” because it’s meant to be a little travelling creative server. It has all the software capabilities of the creative server in “the command center” even if it doesn’t have, quite, the hardware. No drawing tablet, just the touch-pad for kinesthetic input, but it runs all of the software. It’ll even do the detailed 3D rendering, if I give it a while, leave it plugged in, and make sure it’s on a cooling pad. It’s an excellent tool for doing the work I need to do; thanks angel investor! (She knows who she is).
“The command center” is a tremendous working environment. It’s also PACKED with distractions. The communications server is great for surfing the web, which gets me hung up on Facebook and Reddit more often than not. The creative server? AMAZING at running high-end games. Oh, sure, I can tell myself “I’ll only play ONE round of Strike Suit Infinity, or go to just the NEXT save point in Bioshock Infinite,” but with my obsessive personality, that’s not going to be the way it goes. More, my office is full of books and toys. FULL. I’m never more than a few seconds away from Legos, Micronauts, comic books, a hundred RPGs, science fictions novels, and a score of textbooks I always meant to read.
Not to mention the fact that my computers serve the same purpose as the “daddy’s sock drawer” of old, which is distracting in an entirely other fashion.
I’m sitting in front of a huge window that looks out onto Hawthorne Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in the country, only ten feet away. There are more than twenty people in this shop laughing and drinking and talking and existing, it’s a bright sunny day in December, and these are FEWER distractions than I find in my office. Plus, there’s a limit to how many bad habits I can engage in while I’m here.
(Incidentally, there’s also a photographer randomly shooting a study of the whipped cream on my coffee drink. Still less distracting).
Some people might think that I’m writing here to have an audience for my writing, which may not be entirely incorrect. There’s very little recognition for the act of writing while you’re doing it, unlike the practice of sports or many other business-based vocations, and a little recognition is nice. Heck, the baristas here know how much I’m planning on writing in a given day by how many shots of espresso I order (today is an 8 shot day).
The much larger reason that I’m writing here isn’t because I want an audience, but because I actually want to be under the social restrictions that I would be free of in “the command center.” It’s not so much that I want an audience to spur me on as I want an audience to keep me focused.
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Incidentally, I mentioned that I got a new product done?
In the meantime… Aloha!