No one can deny that writers are a peculiar people. For many, one of those peculiarities is that we can only write in a certain location. Some can only write at their desk while sitting in their special chair, others have to be sprawled out on the couch with a moleskin. Personally, I can write just about anywhere as long as there aren’t too many distractions (TV, Facebook, people trying to engage me in conversation). However, when I’m on a time crunch, the one thing I do need in order to crank out the words is a place with a lot of creative energy. It could be a coffee shop where writers congregate. My favorite is Case Study Coffee in Portland. That shop is practically a haven for writers and the delectable variety of drinks and noshes only make it better. The only downside is it’s about forty miles away. As much as I love Case Study and the amount of work I can blow through it’s not a journey I can make on a regular basis. There are a few shops closer to home that are very nice and possess a menu that is just as delectable, but they don’t have the right energy.
I should probably explain what I mean when I speak of energy. I’m not referring to it exclusively in scientific terms or even in the metaphysical way that a medium would – though, it’s probably closer to the way an acupuncturist perceives it. To put it in slightly more precise terms, I perceive energy in the way that stage actors do. A live audience in a theater participates in the performance a lot more than one would think. Every laugh, gasp, chuckle, tear, and ovation exudes energy. It’s something that actors rely on to make their performance extraordinary because they feed off it – literally. Why do they do it? Simple. Performances are draining. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comedy, drama, or musical. It takes a lot of energy to emote and leap about the stage every night. If an actor had to do it using just their own reserves, they’d be exhausted by the end of the night. They need the audience’s reactions and the energy those reactions transfer in order to monologue and not faint. In some ways it makes stage actors a lot like vampires (besides the fact that they favor dark recesses and are rarely seen during the day). If you talk to any stage actor, they’ll tell you that matinees are an anathema. Other than that performing during the day is unnatural, matinee audiences, for some little understood reason, rarely exude the same energy that evening audiences do. The result is that the performance isn’t as vigorous as normal and leaves the actors more drained as well.
Perhaps it’s the result of being on stage for so many years, but I find that writing is much the same. If I’m in a place where other people are writing, doodling, knitting, singing, or any other creative pursuit, I can produce far more and far better work than I can at home. I need that energy boost to type and not be brain dead. I can (and have on many occasions) slog through it for the sake of my budget. But there are days that I crave the high that comes from my fingers flying across the keys as I blaze through yet another chapter. And why shouldn’t I crave it? As far as addictions go, I could do far worse. At least I’m being productive and not self-destructive.
If you’re not an energy vampire, don’t dismay. We can’t all be the creative undead.
In all seriousness, I only have my own experiences to go by in this. I haven’t heard of anyone else who works this way. Heck, I may be a lone weirdo, but that’s ok because this is the profession where doing what works for you is always a good thing.