Friday Night, or What I'm Doing Instead of Writing

Friday night has been Writing Night for a very long time. My tradition was to drop off Boy at the skate center, then go to the only coffeehouse in town that stayed open late and did not have internet service.

It's a vegetarian coffeehouse, so I frequently came out screaming for bacon. Nothing against vegetarian food, per se, except I'm a solid carnivore and veggie food always seems to leave me craving meat. But it's right downtown, it has marvelous atmosphere and reasonable prices, and it didn't have internet.

Well, then it did. Once my coffeehouse acquired wifi, I had to rely on my own powers of self-control to keep writing. You can guess how well that went. I am, after all, the woman who installed productivity software on her laptop that actually shuts down the internet access for specific periods of time so that I could focus on writing.

But I kept Friday nights sacred, even after Jimmy came into my life. For one thing, he's been working night shifts almost the entire time we've been together. On those rare Fridays he was free, we would go to the coffeehouse together for Dueling Laptops. There are other coffee joints in town, but they all close at 5 p.m. (!!!).

Why not just write in my awesome tower office? For the first time since Boy was born, I have an office that is all mine, with a door I can shut. Alas, it is also where I work for eight-plus hours per day for the newspaper. It is where I run our various other enterprises: consignment sales, Literary Underworld, the photography shop, charity book sales, etc. It is the office of Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc., otherwise known as our household, and that's a business perpetually in need of management, let me tell you.

It seems to be virtually impossible to do creative fiction at that desk. Maybe if I ever got the mountainous stack of TO-DO down to a neat, organized pile. Maybe if the inbox no longer overflowed across the surface - there is a surface, right? I saw it when we assembled the thing. My friend Allan Gilbreath calls his master "The Desk of Endless Tasks." I know exactly how he feels.

The last time Jimmy and I had Dueling Laptops at my coffeehouse, I wrote 4500 words in ninety minutes. I swear it works. Get me away from the House of Endless Tasks, away from the desk that is my master twelve hours a day, and I can actually work.

Today, however, has been an exercise in frustration. Day Job Work finished at the usual time for once, but then there was maintenance on our extracurricular enterprises, and there were some bills, and this pesky software upgrade that's making me crazy.

But I had a mind to cut the usual Endless Tasks short, because it's writing night. And just as I'm finishing...

Boy called. He's supposed to be playing ball at the Y, but they have a special event and he can't. Could I come pick him up?

I mentally subtracted the amount of time it will take to drive across town, pick him up and drive him home, allowed a brief wish that we still lived across the street from the Y except it would mean that we still lived in the apartment instead of our wonderful house, considered making him sit in the lobby for four hours, wondered if it's too cold to make him walk two miles in the dark, and agreed to come get him.

So I drove over the Y, waited out front and texted Boy twice before calling and yelling about not watching for me instead of flirting with girls in the lobby. Okay, not really. If I notice that he notices girls, he gets mad at me. Don't ask me why, the male species hasn't made sense to me since high school. Actually, it didn't make sense to me then, either.

I drove Boy home, reminded him of the usual cacophony of Momness (put away the dishes, make sure your Scout uniform is ready for tomorrow morning, if you make a mess in the living room I'll hide your laptop under your bed where it'll never be seen again, etc.) and then had to wait while he changed shoes. Why change shoes? Because our yard is a nasty, muddy, soggy mess. And he was wearing the brand-new Nikes my dad bought him for his birthday. Can't sully the new shoes by actually walking in them.

Finally, I drove to my coffeehouse. I had my fully-charged laptop, a good pair of earbuds and three whole hours left. I even found a parking space not far from the coffeehouse. No line at the register, and I ordered my cucumber-and-olive-tapenade panini (bacon, for the love of God, bacon!!!) and tea.

And only when they delivered the tea to my table did I discover that they close at eight. Not ten. Early hours in the new year.


Unfortunately, half an hour is not enough to fall through the hole in the paper. It is enough to write a bitchy blog entry complaining how life eats away at writing time, because for some reason this writing comes to me very easily. Blogging is easy. Reporting is easy - I've been writing column inches of nonfiction every weekday for 16 years now, and it's as natural as breathing.

Fiction... that's hard. That takes focus, and concentration, and at least half an hour of reading over the last session and letting the music fill my head before I can write. And while I've already written 928 words of this blog entry in 25 minutes, it would take me about three times that long to write the same amount of fiction.

I don't know why.

I don't know why it's so hard to fall through the hole in the paper. It wasn't when I first started; my God, the first book I wrote was like falling in love. Like taking dictation from someone else; it was all in my head already and I was just writing it down so others could see it too. My early books took longer to get rolling, but when they did, by God they flew. Fiction was always harder than news or blogging, but never so hard as the last couple of years.

So it just now kicked over eight o'clock, and as soon as I'm done with this yummy chocolate-coconut bar they're going to kick me out of here. And I am mulling whether to try to find any other place in town that won't roll up the sidewalks in an hour, any place where I can write.

We talked about this today, Jimmy and me. (Jimmy and I? Grammar police, cite me!) We talked about the percentage of selling/promoting time vs. writing time in our lives, and how it needs to switch this year, for more than one reason. We need to focus on writing our books, and more importantly, on family and each other. Fewer cons and travel, more writing and reading. And there's that whole wedding-and-grandbaby thing coming in the latter half of the year.

I wish I could write at home without the Tyranny of the To-Do List killing every creative impulse in my body.

I wish my brain would switch gears from nonfiction to fiction without tripping over the speed bump.

I wish this damn coffeehouse would stay open until an indecent hour. Don't they know it's a college town?

I wish.

Oops, they're closed.


  1. Great writing as usual Elizabeth! John has similar philosophical issues with said coffee house. :-)


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