Writing “Out”


Sometimes it is impossible to write at home, either because I have to be other places, or because if I don’t go somewhere else, the people I live with will get hurt.

I spent 3 ½ weeks this spring transporting my mother to dialysis, 3 times a week, 150 miles round trip from my home where she was visiting. Besides the almost 1.5 hour drive each way, there are 4 hours when she’s hooked to the machine that I can either sit there in a hospital gown and mask and stare at her, or I can go do something else. Three years earlier, the last time she came to visit, I found the cafeteria in the hospital next door to the kidney center to be a wonderful place to work.

Beautiful hospital. Wonderful staff.

Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Washington is where I spent those three days a week for three weeks. It’s a spacious, carpeted area with comfortable seats and small tables that the workers, nurses and doctors, often put together for their larger groups for lunch, but there are two tables near the one wall plug that I stake out. Well, one or the other. There is a big picture window overlooking a nice little seating area outside, and the staff is wonderful, charging me very little for coffee or soda when I bring in my own Tervis cups that I take everywhere with me.

My staked-out work space in the hospital

The salad bar in the cafeteria is very nice, with fresh veggies and lovely chopped meats, hard boiled eggs, nuts and fruits. There is always homemade soup, and the food you order from the kitchen is all homemade and well priced.

On top of all the wonderfulness of the food and seating, it is what I would consider the perfect place to work.

For some reason, I cannot work at home with noise. Especially noise produced by the hubby or kiddo. It makes me insane and makes it impossible to get anything creative done. But when I write “out” there is something about the buzz of conversation that I find relaxing and somehow inspiring. If I want to stop writing and eavesdrop on the conversation at the table near mine, I can. As long as I stare at my computer screen no one is the wiser – I’ve become an expert at eavesdropping over the years! *grin. Or I can ignore the voices, the hum and buzz of conversation, and the words seem to pour out of my fingertips like magic.

At home, I have a couple of places I run away to work when the family gets on my nerves. We have three McDonald’s restaurants in our town. I have scoped them all out, but the one that I have found to be the perfect place to work is of course, the one all the way across town from where I live. It’s a smaller restaurant, where the majority of sales are done through the drive thru. Inside, though, every morning from about nine to eleven-thirty, it’s got a wonderful smattering of retirees who come to hang out, have cheap coffee, and shoot the breeze. Older husbands and wives will sit across from each other with their coffees and read their respective sections of the paper. Groups of men jabber on every topic – I even heard a conversation about some very loose women at the senior center.

I do a lot of eavesdropping there because I’ve always loved the older generations and their conversations, ranging from religion to politics to grandkids, I find enthralling. A couple of years ago, I spent every morning, Monday through Friday for two weeks straight, spending three hours a day (that’s all the battery life my laptop has) writing what I considered a very good book. Besides that, the coffee isn’t bad, you get free refills, and their fruit and fiber muffins are the best I’ve ever had!

Coffee & Muffin – McDonald’s

Another place is right across the street from our apartment. It’s called De Dutch, and their only open for breakfast and lunch. I’ve gotten some good writing done there a few times when I needed to get out of the house, but I don’t find the setting as soothing as the cafeteria and McDonald’s, maybe because it’s a little too quiet there.

When my husband was unemployed for six months several years ago, and we were flat broke, so even going to McD’s for a coffee was out of the questions – I never take up a space in a restaurant that is crowded to the point that I’m hampering their business, and I never take up a space and don’t order anything. That’s just rude. – I tried going to the local library to work.

As a writer and avid reader, this might be my worst revelation ever, but I’ve never liked libraries. I advocate for literacy, and I donate money, when I can, to the local libraries, and attend the fund raiser book sales there when they have them, but I do not enjoy just going to the library to browse or sit and read or work. I’m not comfortable there. I think it might go back to my childhood when we had to go to the library and pick out a book every week, and reading was punishment – another revelation…I was in my early teens before I read a novel for pleasure. It was called Rip Tide and it was about a tiger shark attacking riptidepeople in the Florida Keys. That book led me to reading Jaws, which led me to reading everything Peter Benchley ever wrote. That was the beginning of my love of books. I was in 8th grade. I actually didn’t read my first romance until I got The Conquest by Jude Deveraux from my sister for Christmas when I was seventeen. My sister said the tomboy heroine in that book reminded her of me.

Anyway, I sincerely tried going to the library and writing, but it just didn’t work. I think because it’s sooo quiet there, every little noise, someone coughing, sniffling (I really hate that sound) made me edgy and I couldn’t write. I wound up setting up a little wooden TV tray in my bedroom, hauling my office chair in there and locking the door for several hours a day so I could write.

We’re not flat broke now, but money isn’t great. At least I can afford a cup of soup at the cafeteria or a coffee and muffin for $1.59 (with free refills) at McD’s. Part of me gets annoyed when I have to leave my house to work, but once I’m out, I get right into the groove and let the words flow. It’s a very good feeling. It’s all about finding somewhere that works for each individual. It has taken me a lot of years to even be comfortable sitting down in a restaurant and pulling out my laptop. Part of me feels as if I’m being pretentious. The jokes about the wanna-bes in Starbucks writing the Great American Novel or angsty poetry… But I’m not a wanna-be. I’m a published author. And if I have to go to a restaurant to get a couple of hours of writing time, it’s for one reason only… The people I live with are making me insane and either I make their life (and ultimately my life) miserable by harping on them to shut up and go away, or I go away for a while and find my happy place.


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