Monday, September 9, 2013

I can only choose one worst place?

 Where's the worst place I've ever written? 

Well, I could have fun with that if I wanted and describe a location from one of my books. It would literally be about the worst place I’ve ever written. But that would be mean. Also, I would then have to choose which of the places I’ve created was the worst, and I’ve written about some particularly nasty places—I write a lot of horror.

So instead I’ll play nice and go with the spirit of the subject matter.

Contrary to Jeffe’s theory I have never written in a nightclub gutter. Really, I’ve never written in ANY gutter but in particular I’ve never written in a nightclub gutter because I don’t do nightclubs. I’m sure they’re lovely places, but they’re also too bloody noisy. I prefer quiet when I am writing.

I’m going, instead, to give a multi-part answer. Because there are several worst places that were the worst for entirely different reasons. First, there was my home at the time. I had several roommates at one point (read: In-laws) and one in particular was sort of epically passive aggressive. He would play video games in the next room and would crank the sound levels as high as he could, often leading to a vibration running through my chest as he destroyed fictitious tanks in WWII, battled anime enemies in imaginary arenas or ran around in modern warfare scenarios with several other would-be soldiers of fortune in Afghanistan. This while chain-smoking (I’m an ex-smoker) and drinking beer and belching. What did I do to cause this deliberate reaction? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that from time to time I’d ask him to turn it down. And when that didn’t work, I’d walk over and explain and tell him which part of his anatomy I’d shatter if he kept it up. Normally after the later the levels went down a bit.

So that’s the first runner up.

Second was a restaurant where I worked. When it was busy no one had time to do anything. When it was slow, some of my co-workers found it amusing to disturb my writing. We came to an understanding. Normally the discussion came down to me baring teeth and growling. After that they left me alone.

After I had knee surgery I was on my back for two weeks with a Passive Motion Machine strapped to my leg. The purpose of this machine, which I consider a godsend these days, was to move my leg into different positions slowly and constantly to avoid a build up of scar tissue. It worked quite well. But while I was in it I was stuck lying down for about twenty-three hours a day. Finding a way to prop up the laptop was a challenge and it was made worse by the constant movement of my leg, which effectively eliminated any attempt to use my lap as a propping point for the laptop.

For several years it brought my wife peace of mind and heart to go to the local pond and feed the literal swarms of ducks and geese there. It got to a point where we spent a few hours a day there. That, in turn, led to a decline in my writing time until someone was nice enough to loan me a laptop. Just the same, try writing in the bright sunlight (or the light drizzles) while trying to keep a few hundred ducks and geese out of the road. I made a few deadlines, but it was never easy.

The renal dialysis center where I spent four hours at a time while my wife was being treated. That was pretty high up on the list. The waiting room was often crowded and noisy. But my laptop had a lot of iTunes songs loaded and I had a headset. The seats were uncomfortable and there was no room for me to prop myself up, but I had an even wider lap back then and I could manage well enough to write a few thousand words, provided there were no medical incidents as often occurred. Still, it was peaceful in its way and writing offered me a chance to relax. As addictions go writing is one of the better choices for relaxing and keeping sane.

I’m with Jeffe, by the way: Coffee shops are not great places to write. I’ve met far too many people who will gleefully interrupt, unaware that they are taking their lives into their hands. Also, sometimes the choices for music just plain suck wind. I love Starbucks. I hate their jazz selections. There’s nothing “smooth” about the sound of a trumpet being played badly. What some people call music in that scenario I call elephants being violated and singing their woes.

The absolute worst place? There was plenty of space. I had a nice, comfortable chair and a couch to choose from. I could have gone outside and settled on one of several chairs around a nice little table. There was little activity and I was surrounded by loved ones. Hospice. My mother was dying, you see. For ten days my family gathered around her and waited. It is not a place conducive to writing. It is not a scenario that feeds the muse. Writing, however, has always been my solace. I could not bring a laptop, as I did not have one at that time. Instead I brought a notebook. And I wrote story ideas to myself. A few of them later became novels. Mostly, however, I stared at blank white pages and tried very hard not to think. But ultimately I wrote because it was my only method of staying sane in a miserable situation. 

For me it’s always a matter of perspective. There are always trials to overcome. My chair right now is on its last legs and I do not have the spare cash for another one, not until that next writing check comes in. So for now I readjust the slowly sinking chair to the right height with regularity or I type with my hands much higher than I’m used to while I crane my head to an uncomfortable level.

But any time I’m writing and the muse is kind is a good time for me.

I have been bad.....I was supposed to remind everyone that we need three words for next week's flash fiction scenario. You give us three words, Jeffe works her magic, three words are chosen and thus, we each write flash fiction for you. The challenge for me, of course, is that my idea of a short story is normally several thousand words too long to qualify as a short story, so this should prove amusing...


  1. Excellent post, James - you might win this one. (But you forgot to ask for flash fiction word suggestions!)

  2. Well then, I guess I better get back up there and edit! :)

  3. Yeah, you win the "craptastic places to write" award.

    But, I had to laugh at this: "What some people call music in that scenario I call elephants being violated and singing their woes."

  4. KAK picked out a great quote from this post. And the next time you carry the pleasant aroma of coffee beans we will know you chose the best possible location, instead of the backhallway in a restaurant.