My home office doubles as a guest room, so, when there’s a guest I unfortunately get the boot. I have to clear all of my notes, scoop up my computer and shove papers into folders. Luckily, we don’t get that many guests, and certainly not during the work week, but when it happened last week, I was forced to vacate.
At first, I welcomed the change of pace. I had visions of embodying Carrie Bradshaw; I would write on my bed, in front of a window, or at Starbucks. I would look pensive and thoughtful and my words would be meaningful; full of witty and even thought provoking sentiment. My hair would be messy but look great and I would rock a cute outfit and get my book published.
Here’s the real breakdown of my week-
Day One- I jauntily set up shop at the kitchen table. There’s a lovely view of the backyard that backs up to a wooded walking path that is frequented by walkers, joggers and their dogs. Unfortunately, I was witness to what the owners let their dogs do or doo doo on the path, and I was really annoyed.By 9:30, I’m starving and the food pantry is arms distance from my chair. I consumed a bag (yes it was family sized- don’t judge) of tortilla chips, crackers, not to mention a few cookies and half a chocolate bar and that was all before lunch.
Day Two- Trying to channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw (yes I have been binging on all six seasons on Amazon) I decided to work on my bed. I sat there looking at the piles of laundry that still needed folding, not to mention the clothing that had been abandoned on the floor when my husband was late for a meeting. I made the bed so I had some sort of orderliness, and I propped the computer on top of my lap. I opened the window to see the tops of beautiful trees (without the dog poop below) and proceeded to write. That’s when I heard it-the drip, drip, drip of the leaky shower in our bathroom. I tried to tune it out, but the more I ignored it, the louder it became. I gave up and went downstairs for a snack.
Day Three-I was thrilled to find out that I had earned a free month’s worth of coffee at Panera. On day three, I decided to channel Carrie by sitting at a table there. Now, I know, Starbucks is the writer’s coffee house du jour. After all, Carrie frequented Starbucks, but if Panera with free WiFi AND coffee had existed, trust me, Carrie would have been slogging it out with the rest of us. I secured a booth, plugged in my laptop and had my first cup of coffee by my side.Thus, I began to write.
This lasted for 10 seconds because two women sat down next to me. We will call them Talky girl #1 and Blabbermouth #2. I was subjected to all issues dealing with their failed diets, relationships and boring summer plans (by the way, they’re both going to Ocean City, in case you were interested). After they left, I refreshed my coffee, because it was free after all and finally got down to work. That’s when the music came on. Now I had soft rock messing with my concentration. I confirmed that day on my third cup of Panera coffee, that I was a writer who needed absolute silence in order to concentrate. Nauseous and shaky from all the caffeine, I decided to pack up.
In the three days of working away from my office, I came to a few realizations:
1. There’s no place like home (in my office).
2. My neighbors are slobs.
3. I will never be a Carrie Bradshaw.
However, the most important epiphany I learned throughout this experiment is that you simply can’t contrive life to imitate art because it usually fails.The same holds true for writing because it obviously has to come from within, not as an imitated experience. I remember attending a children’s writing conference and the speaker told the audience, “write what you know.” I was so busy writing what I thought a publisher wanted, that I wasted precious moments not being truly authentic. Now, I realize this attitude doesn’t always work, especially when you want to write about something that publishers don’t think they can market. Always a conundrum we all struggle with. At the very least however, you have to believe in the subject.
If we can expand this message more globally, I admit that I face these similar challenges as a parent. I have lost count how many times have I asked my kids to tell me the truth, not what they think I want to hear, because this doesn’t usually lend itself to honest disclosure or any kind of teachable moment.
Presently, I am sitting in Panera, because my father in law temporarily moved into my office for a few days until his new apartment is ready. I am pacing myself by drinking half caf/regular, my hair is a mess (and not in a sexy way), I have earbuds in my ears, my shoes are more blah than Blahnik, and I have a four stitches in my thumb with a bulky splint over it which makes typing a challenge.
Carrie is nowhere to be found-It doesn’t get any more real than that.