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Writing in Public

7 February 2012

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That's not exactly what I meant... oh, never mind.

I’m not one who likes to go out and write in public. Generally, I like to do my writing when most of the world is asleep, and that doesn’t jive well with many business plans (unless I wanted to write at, say, a Waffle House). But still, I see people in coffee shops doing it all the time — sitting there with their paper cup of energy and madness, pounding away at their laptop and netbook keyboards.

I know a lot of writer-types bothered by this kind of thing. The “oh, they’re not really writing, but they want to look like they’re writing” assumption comes into play, and I think it’s probably pretty valid in some cases. But I think there are people who like to go do their writing in public, too, and find that they actually produce better when there’s a bunch going on around them.

Like I said, that’s not me. My buddy Joe Peacock has mentioned writing at coffee shops before. I also remember reading that Chuck Palahniuk wrote large chunks of Fight Club in public places — in gyms, in bars, in restaurants. To him, I think, this constant exposure to other people served an observational purpose (I’m just guessing — Chuck and I don’t really hang out). I can see the benefit, but…

Well, I think I get too distracted. I can’t help overhearing other conversations, mainly because I’m eavesdropping. And I get very little work done that way.

So what’s your opinion on writing in public, folks? Ever met anyone it worked well for? Or are most of those people just trying to look like writers without producing much?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 February 2012 1025

    I used to write on lunch break at a rather large company. It was like writing in public. I completed my second novel during those lunch breaks. Note: the second novel sits because it sounds like it was written during lunch breaks!

    But I know people for whom writing in public works. A Florida writing bud, William Mize often writes at his local Panera Bread. He finds all the noise and movement something to block out. When he can block it all out, he knows he’s in the zone and ready to write. I’ve heard other writers say the same thing.

    For me…I like early hours or late hours. Sometimes music, but if it’s quiet enough — just silence. But when there are no alternatives, I’ve found I can at least write a decent enough draft of something with people around me — although it’s not my preference.

    Oh, and Joe Peacock’s Asshole, The Three-Legged Dog entry is a thing of beauty!

    • 8 February 2012 1101

      I prefer late hours, too. And I do like to write with a bit of distraction — music, TV — but not human distraction. I have no idea why that is — maybe I’m just too interested in people and can’t help listening to them, even when they’re not talking to me.

  2. 7 February 2012 1731

    I don’t want to speculate on their motivations, but I could never write under public circumstances. I get up very early in the morning (12:30 A.M on some freakish days) to write in the quiet solitude of the morning). I suppose I could make notes or tinker with this or that in a coffee shop (I don’t even drink coffee), but I could never do the “whole-cloth” creative work of actual composition in a creative space. (I say that, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really tried to do it.)

    • 8 February 2012 1100

      I’ve never tried to do it, either. I’ve tried to write with one or two other people in the room at home, and it’s never worked out well. Now, I will point out that I have been that guy in the coffee shop with the laptop before — when my Internet was down at my old apartment, I used to run to Panera Bread to leech WiFi and do some research.

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