Monday, April 7, 2014

Fail! My café writing experiment

Picture yourself here....
Apparently J.K. Rowling did it rather well during the early stages of writing the Harry Potter series. Some of my writer friends do it regularly. I've had some mild success with it in the past, too.

And after a long winter of being tied to my home office, I thought it would be kinda fun. Get out of the house, drink tea made by someone else, take some time to make myself presentable (no, I don't work in my pyjamas, but there were a few days this winter during which the mirror shivered a little when I stepped in front of it...).

So, off to a wonderful downtown Guelph café I go. (Clue for locals: the one on Douglas Street.)

This is what happened.

1. No street parking nearby or even far off, so parked in the public City of Guelph lot on Baker Street, for which I will pay about $3-$4. I'm okay with this. Parking fees help keep the City rolling. Of course, I don't actually live in the City of Guelph. But never mind.

2.  Walked to Douglas Street and entered the café. Warm. Cozy. Perfect wallpaper music playing (not too loud, not too ear-catching). Lots of empty space. A number of people ensconced with computers, books, friends. Loving this!

3. Got my big cuppa and wandered to the back room. Looked around. Window tables taken. Okay, I'll take this little one in a row of tables-for-two along the banquette. Sit down. Start to organize my bits and pieces...and then I hear it.

4. Conversation (loud) between student (grad?) and professor (wearing suit & tie; authoritative questions about research). They are nearby, at a table with comfortable, lean-back leather chairs. Which means they are talking at a volume necessary to be heard across that space and over the thrum of the music.

5. Everyone in the room can hear every word about (a) her research on body language and what that means in a counselling context (b) her sideline as a ballet teacher (c) the racist professor who has been singling out a student in her class for discrimination (d) lots of other stuff that I really, really don't want to hear.

6. No one looks over at them. They are oblivious to the rest of us. Silent questions form in my mind, including (a) are they flirting, or is this just a professional cup of coffee between academic colleagues? (b) do they know that we can all hear every word? and (c) if the answer to (b) is "Yes", do they care?

7. The guy at the table by the window stands up and gets ready to leave. Score! I wait until he clears the area, do a quick pack-up of my clobber (computer, notebook, tea, coat, bag...) and take up residence as far away from the Loud People as possible. Excellent.

8. Now I'm able to focus (despite the continued loud conversation). By now some other pairings have arrived and the room starts to burble a bit. Ahhh. That welcome white noise of music and voices that makes café writing so appealing.

9. Ready to get started. About to open a file...

10. Notice that an email has come in to my business address. Check it.

11. Big mistake.

12. The next thing I know, I'm dealing with that instant join-the-dots, flow-chart kind of thing that happens when you read one email. This has to be done to respond, and this, and this, and then this. I finally deal with the last piece and...

13. Thirty minutes have passed. My tea is all gone.  The Loud People have left. I've done nothing creative.

14. I get more tea. ("Free refills!" says the nice girl at the counter. I could hug her.)

15. I open the file I'm interested in, and for about twenty minutes read, fiddle, and wonder why I'm not feeling creative. Eventually I realize that that I've used up the time I allotted myself and should be packing up and heading home.

Which I do.

So, to recap my failed café writing experience:

1. Sounds distracted me.
2. Work/internet distracted me.
3. I didn't have a goal for my writing.

Next time, I will:

1. Prepare myself for possible noise distractions.
2. Turn off email, web, work.
3. Show up with a plan and a purpose.

This time? Fail. But I've promised myself there will be a next time. I might bring my earbuds, though...