Thursday, March 22, 2012

Confessions of a cafe writer

I was amazed when I read that J.K. Rowling wrote the beginnings of her first book “Harry Potter and the Sorcercer’s Stone” in a cafe near her flat in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” …


Consequently, I wondered whether there were a link between environment and creativity, and if the world’s bestselling author capitalized on that connection.

Throughout most of my career, I have been chained to a desktop computer in the Newsroom or in my home office, watching the world pass by my window. Two years ago I bought my first laptop, and even then I slowly ventured to the couch.

But a freelance job for new media took me on the road. There was no office building.

Writing at Wi-Fi cafes seemed cumbersome, chancy and distracting at first.

I used to write with a squirming toddler in my lap typing with one determined finger, but it’s been awhile since Pandora’s  soothing strains have been my only companion.

Now, after cutting the cord from traditional journalism, I smile when I think of my foolish reservations and how much freedom being a mobile writer has afforded me.

Today I drove to a Barnes & Noble Café with my laptop and Color Nook in tow. This is one of my favorite places to write, since Borders bit the dust. There’s something stimulating about being surrounded by a store full of books and sipping on a Starbuck’s Marble Mocha Macchiato that gets the wheels turning.

Above my head in the cafe are caricatures of literary figures: Dickinson, Hemingway, Orwell, Nabokov, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Parker, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Eliot, Singer, Kafka, Neruda, Hughes, Tagore and Hurston. One can only hope that some of their genius will rub off.

If that’s not enough, I can wander around the stacks, take notes and get lost in the written word. My fingers will be flying over the keys before long.

One by one I have left behind many of the skills gleaned from years as a veteran reporter to adapt to the new technologies. Every day seems fraught with more hurdles to jump through, new ways of doing things that at first are frustrating and time consuming, but with each accomplishment comes a confidence and an expanding base of knowledge.

“Sir, there are some things I’d like to know, if you can tell me … things I want to know the truth about,” said Harry Potter.

“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

Nothing magical about that.

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