Life is a Highway

Though I do write a lot at home, much of the time I prefer to be out in public. Give me a crowded coffee shop and a table and I’m happy. Put that table near an outlet and you might have to get a court order to get me out.

I grab my cup of non-fat hot chocolate (yeah, I know…I’m deluding myself), fire up the iPod and laptop, and get writing. Somehow I get lost in the crowd. Everything around me disappears for a while.

There are times, though, when I hit a point where I need to reflect for a second, or even take a quick break. This is when my perch at the coffee shop becomes even more interesting…time for a little people watching.

There’s a table at this coffee shop I frequent (okay, it’s a Starbucks) where I’ve seen all sorts of things happen: people on a first date, people breaking up, odd sounding business proposals, an art student working on his portfolio, a couple going over the terms of their divorce, old friends talking about nothing. All this at the very same table.

But my favorite place for people watching is in Hollywood only about a 10 minute drive away. Yeah, it’s another Starbucks, but it is well positioned for the weird and wacky. It’s located at the corner of La Brea Avenue. and Sunset Boulevard. For those not from around L.A., that’s about two blocks south of Hollywood Boulevard. and maybe a ¼ mile from the Kodak theater where they hold the Academy Awards these days.

A window seat will get you ringside to Sunset Boulevard. It’s crazy. You’ll see street kids, families, working girls, police officers, regular L.A. types, wide-eyed tourists, women who didn’t start life as women, and backpacking Europeans. There are women and men dressed up for a night of clubbing, there are people who look like they’ve just rolled out of bed, and then there are the ones who dress weird.

A bus once pulled up and dropped off a load of sailors. Several ended up in Starbucks watching the weirdness outside. I overheard that they had just come in on a ship and this was their hour in Hollywood. The Chinese theater was only two blocks away on Hollywood Boulevard, but by then it was too late for them to walk up and check it out.

I once saw Death crossing La Brea. He was wearing a black robe and carrying a scythe. He didn’t seem to be too interested in anyone, so I guess that was good.

Sometimes they even come inside the coffee shop, too…well, Death didn’t. Guess he wasn’t thirsty.

I always get back to writing, though. But I love those visual interludes, love the spying on life. For me, it’s my ideal writing environment.

So what about you? What’s your ideal situation?

7 thoughts on “Life is a Highway

  1. Jake Nantz

    I gotta have quiet. I really prefer to write when I have no distractions at all, but if I can just get to a private room I’m okay. My biggest problem, though is getting out from under student papers long enough to get zeroed in on my WIP and get some work done.

    I know lots of people like to have inspiring music and whatnot, but I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for me. I start singing along and then I’m screwed.

    In the ultimate irony, my best time to write is in the summer (no school), but of course I’m an East Coast night owl and a Dodger fan. That means my best time of day to write seems to be the same time I have to struggle not to get online and listen to Vin Scully call the game.

    Of course the way they’ve been playing has made that easier of late…

  2. R.J. Mangahas

    During the summer, as long as it’s nice outside, I go down to the village green to write. Otherwise, it’s at a cafe or something near my house (NOT Starbucks!) By the way, I’ve had a cup of joe with Death before. Interesting fellow really.

  3. Pari Noskin Taichert

    I’m an in-the-office-quiet-no-distractions kind of gal.

    It’s fun to break up the intensity by people watching and when I’m traveling, I do great work in the airport and on the plane. I also write at the Do Jang when my kids have their Tae Kwon Do class . . .

    But I prefer the solitude for really getting things done.

  4. Louise Ure

    Brett, your ability to write with distractions astounds me. I need my own room and complete quiet … although I’ve found recently that a white noise machine or maybe a neater or a fan going works even better.

  5. billie

    I used to love writing in coffee houses (I wrote the first draft of my first novel almost exclusively in a coffee house), but at some point the distractions became intrusive.

    I tend to get approached a lot and get caught up in conversations when I’m out like that. It’s the therapist aura. People are drawn to it and I am drawn to listen. 🙂

    Now my favorite writing place at home is right here in my garret, although I adore going on writing retreats and when I get stuck, taking my laptop and a legal pad and writing on location is another favorite thing to do.

  6. JT Ellison

    Life is a highway…I wanna ride it, all night long…

    Thanks, man, for this morning’s ear worm : )

    I like the peace and quiet of my living room to write. I’m much too easily distracted by people watching to write anywhere but home. But home gets pressurized too — the phone, access to the internet — I think I need an island oasis. Buy me one???


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