I spend a lot of time writing in coffee shops. Over the last couple of years most of the words I’ve committed have been written while seated in these sorts of places. Today is no different. I dropped A-bear off at preschool, and stopped off at my favorite local bean house.

The goal this morning was to write a short description of the various settings I want to include in the piece I’m outlining. I need eight to twelve when it’s all said and done. The novel involves a networked simulation and so the setting changes over the course of the story which means I can’t just say “simulation” and walk away. Each of these worlds needs to feel real for the story to work.

So I’m sitting here, banging away at the keyboard, trying like hell to imagine each one after the other. How do these worlds work? What feels real, what does not? It’s world building ad nauseum. I’m sitting here, periodically staring off into space because I need to imagine these settings when this couple sit down at the table next to me. He’s in his late 30’s, a little gray in his unkept hair, and a belly has sprouted under his chest. I think she must be a little older, she has long strawberry hair that she must curl every morning.

The guy is mansplaining everything and otherwise dominating their conversation. He’s doing so with authority while at the same time he constantly contradicts himself. “I’m a libertarian,” he says. In the next breath, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had government sponsored parenting classes like France?” He starts to riff on the VA and how he thinks it should be destroyed and forgotten. Veterans should know better before they join up to serve. It’s their own fault if they come back from broken places, broken. But then, “You know me, all I want to do is help people.” I’m floored when he trots out the Microsoft vs. Apple card like OS preference is still a thing. He looks over at my Mac and I can tell I’ve ordered Pepsi when he starts dropping “billg” into their conversation like he knows the Microsoft co-founder. This guy is a fraud, he knows it, but he can’t help himself.

The woman periodically chimes in, but says relatively little. I can tell that she’s practiced at holding her tongue. She does a lot of enthusiastic nodding on the rare occasion he says something that she agrees with. Her eyes get shuttered and she looks down at her hands, folded neatly on the table, when he says something so completely fallacious that my four year old wouldn’t have too much trouble picking it apart. From what little she gets to say, I gather she’s involved in mental health or therapy of some sort and my imagination races to keep up with her internal monologue. She’s taking mental notes, she’s keeping score. What the fuck could she be thinking about what this guy is spewing? I marvel at her patience.

Had I hair enough I’d want to pull it out. I cannot help but listen in on this train wreck of a conversation as it bounces down the cliff and into the river far below. It’s annoying, it’s wrong, and it’s just too fucking attractive. I’ve written down a measly five setting descriptions this morning, but my puppy sensitive nose is sniffing around story ideas at the table right next door.

We’re currently looking to buy a house (more on this later), and today it is plainly obvious to me that I need a distraction free space in order to increase my words per week. None of these novels are going to write themselves. Coffee shops work okay, but there is an element of chaos resident herein that keeps becoming a distraction. I’ve got another twenty minutes before school gets out and I should probably get back to my setting descriptions and plotting work. But I wanted to make a mental note of this moment time because I don’t want to lose sight of what I need in a place to live tomorrow when we go looking.


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