As I write this, I am sitting at a long community table in the Chinatown Starbucks on the corner of 7th and H streets, N.W. Two older gentlemen in sweaters that make them look like academics are sitting to my right, having a lively discussion in Spanish. A part of me is trying to pull back enough of my high school Spanish to follow it, but all I can pick up is some sense that they are discussing education of Latinos (their word) in the United States, and perhaps something about Latino-Americans and Christianity. Across the table to my left, a man with tufts of hair pointing straight up at the top of his head, his lips pursed in concentration, is working at a computer. At the end of the table, a homeless man is drinking a coffee and reading a newspaper. Outside the large windows are D.C.’s Chinese Arch and the landscape of the 7th street corridor. There’s music coming from a speaker, heavy blues. And I am stoked for action.
Some people need to get away from all distraction to obtain the peace of mind that allows them to create. Not me. Silence makes me restless. It’s while I’m walking through city streets that I work out bits of plot or dialogue, stopping, as they come, to note them down on a yellow pad before I move on. It’s in restaurants and coffee shops, where I can stop in the middle of a thought to stare at some interesting sight or let my mind temporarily wander over to some interesting conversation, that I develop and write parts of stories I’m working on. I don’t know a single soul around me; what I write will have nothing to do with them; but sitting in their lively company helps me to concentrate. So give me the company of strangers. The stranger, the better. There’s nothing like it to pull the ink from my pen.
Gotta go now. Gonna write a story.
p.s. What works for you?