After a year and a half of staying home to write, I’ve started venturing back out to a café to get some writing done. I’m again organizing a once-a-week Shut Up & Write session in Alameda and (mostly) I’m happy to get back to this practice.
But, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it feels a little like the way I imagine an astronaut might feel when she takes that first space walk. While I eventually got quite comfortable writing in cafés in the pre-pandemic days, it did take me a while to get there and I had to learn a few tricks to make it really workable and productive. Then the pandemic hit, the lockdown began, and I had to re-adjust to writing at home. Now, as I get back to café writing, it once again feels like a foreign environment that I’m not fully prepared to handle.
For one thing, I’ve had to re-assemble my go-bag. In the past, I was so well-prepared for café writing that I kept a backpack or canvas tote ready with all the things I considered essential to get my writing done. It included a paper notebook, a few pens of different types, any notes or files I needed for my current project, and earphones so I could listen to music and block out ambient noise. All I needed to do was slip my laptop in the bag and I was ready to go.
But over the intervening months, my go-bag was disassembled, and a half-hour before I was supposed to leave for my first Shut Up & Write session, I realized that I had to first remember exactly what it was I needed to bring with me, and then scramble to pull it together.
OK, so go-bag in hand, I’ve been to four SU&W sessions now and I think I’m starting to get the hang of things. We are meeting at a new café, one that has outdoor seating available because in spite of being fully vaccinated, I’m still a bit leery of being indoors as long as the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is an issue. When the weather turns cooler, I’ll have to figure out what to do since the indoor seating in this café is limited. There’s also a lot of street noise at this place and my old earphones are not good enough to block it out, so I just invested in a new pair of noise-canceling headphones that I’ll be test-driving at the café later this week.
I’m also remembering what I’ve been missing this past year and a half: The energy you get from sitting with other writers striving to find the right words. The fun of meeting people and hearing a little about their works in progress. The reminder that writing doesn’t have to be an isolating slog. And the way a really good latte can make the words flow just a little bit easier.