The Starbucks Myth-What Writers Need to Write

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Does it matter where we write? Do you absolutely need that desk in the corner of the dining room, living room, bedroom, office? Must your space be immaculately clean in order for the gears to start turning in your head? Or are you unbothered by stacks of paper, assorted pens, dull pencils and a cold cup of coffee? Do you require utter silence? Music? The white noise of a bustling downtown cafe? Do you need to be comfortable, armed with sweatpants and a cushioned chair? How much do your environment and other external conditions play into the fulfillment of the internal, the development of the ideas in your mind?

Personally, I’ve never really needed much in terms of workspace. That urge to write pulsing through my body usually overcomes any trivial necessities. Yes, I do tend to work better in either very quiet or very loud places. That one voice from somewhere else in the house, down the hall, in the next room jabbering on the phone and nagging at my brain can be very distracting. There are times when I decide I need to “settle in” if I’m really going to be at it for a while. During such long work periods I might make my desk a little cleaner as a way to tell my brain to ready itself for some serious creativity, and so my elbows aren’t constantly knocking a random pencil or long-lost earring to the floor. Sometimes I’ve dreamed of a studio, complete with bulletin board covered with pictures of old houses, a lost-looking girl, a marvelous mountain landscape. Post-It notes scattered along the wall, reading: Dying woman on the side of a deserted road, delirious girl escapes into wilderness, or maybe just, boy and girl fall in love. Maybe one day I’ll have such a studio. But the truth is this: Stephen King began best selling novels on American Airline napkins and finished them in his cellar. Other authors have stolen paper and pens and written in such secrecy that they can’t have been altogether at ease when they sat down to the desk for the day. People have written in caves, during warfare, and in captivity as well as while at a desk with a Mac computer.

Having everything just the way you want it is therefore not the key to good writing. You will not necessarily produce better work if you’ve got your green tea, a clean desk, a quiet house and the perfect playlist. Good writing is not the product of ideal conditions. Good writing is the product of other things, like skill and dedication. The truth is, writers “needing” certain things in order to write is not the mark of a master writer. It doesn’t mean you might not enjoy having green tea or quiet or music when you write. It means such things don’t determine your ability to work. A writer writes, no matter what. Writers write in Starbucks and writers write in the back of cramped minivans on crumpled pieces of paper. Writers just write.

When I want to write, I don’t prepare the space. I write, right then and there. It’s not just because if I don’t, I might lose my idea. It’s because I love writing and I’m not going to busy myself finding the right place with the right tools when I grab whatever I’ve got and start. If you feel yourself getting caught up in making sure everything’s all set before you begin work, take it as a warning sign that you might not want to write today. Because when you want to write, you’re not scouting for the perfect corner of the room or the coffee place with the best atmosphere. You’re too busy writing.


Are You Empty?

February 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

Emptiness. The opposite of full. The lack of a something. The existence of a nothing.

People going through difficult times have described this emptiness to me. They sit in front of me, limbs folded in, eyes glazed over, blind. Everything about them is quiet, like the remains of a glass shattered on a floor. Before there was noise, pain, stunned surprise. Now there is quiet. Unrecognizable bits and pieces that once made up a whole.

I’ve been asked this question myself. Men with crinkled dress pants crossed at the knee and bushy eyebrows. Clipboards and fancy metal pens. Are You Empty?

No, I’d say. Because I wasn’t empty. Yes, there were times when I felt like I was drifting through life, hardly there, heart beating soft, brain quiet, limbs slack. But if anything, I was filled to the brim. Filled to bursting. Desperate questions and fears and never-ending streams of thought were pushing for room in a crowded arena. Everybody wanted the floor. What’s going on? When will it end? Why are you crazy? What should you do? Why are things this way? Where am I? Who am I? and Who are You to Me? Does anything make sense?

No, I wasn’t empty. I was overloaded. People were calling for back-up. All hands on deck. There’s another load coming down. Call management. Call the police. Call the fire department. Call the governor.

Filling, filling, filling like a balloon, a young heart in love, a concert hall. My heart was struggling to hold its ground, stand strong against the stampede, the avalanche, the riots. Hold on, it yelled, everyone just calm down, we’ll sort this out. Calls for order were ignored. Everyone wanted to be heard. Everyone wanted a say in how the end of the world would go. You’ll self-destruct, called one. No no, family will defeat you shouted another. Everyone will leave you! piped up a guy in the back. You’ll lose your mind! You’ll lose control! Life will be meaningless! You’ll never escape!

There was a young girl whispering. Everything will be alright. She swayed and stumbled, jostled by the crowd, but she stayed and whispered. Everything will be alright.

My heart locked itself behind its Rib Cage, beating, thumping, screaming for mercy. Merciless, however, were its enemies. They scaled the cage and leapt atop their victim. Weapons they did not need. Words, words, words were enough, more than enough, too much. And my heart bled. 

But it was not just my heart. Everywhere the rebels swarmed, an infestation of ants, bees, virus. Locked up for too long, silenced, made to believe they were silly, worthless, easily forgotten. We are here, they chanted, breaking down the chained door to my Mind. We Are Here. You go there, I’ll go there they called to one another. There’s one chopping away at Belief in Self, belief fragile yet strong like a young oak. Four more are knocking Security to the ground, kicking and jeering. There’s a group backing up Self-Worth, who is shaking uncontrollably, into a corner. Self-Worth does not call for help.

Everything will be alright, says the girl.

Shut up, the rest say.

State of emergency. The governor’s declared it. It’s war, but is it war if one side is doing all the fighting?

My heart is whimpering in the corner of its cage.

And then I burst.

I was the glass hitting the floor, I was the balloon reaching capacity, the concert hall set ablaze. But my enemies were not celebrating victory. No, they were thrown in the air and now they were strewn on the floor and they ached and they moaned. They were bruised and broken. My heart whispered.

And the little girl was standing.

Everything will be alright.


Everything will be alright.

No, I was not empty. I was full.

Today, I am full. And my enemies, they exist. But I have set them to work. I’ve said, write a story. 

You are Not Empty.

You never will be.

You are full.




February 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

This was just written very quickly out of a need to make sense of things and end the day! I don’t feel totally satisfied so there will probably be more pieces like this soon written somewhat differently. Comments/thoughts/reactions always appreciated!



It’s in the dusty smell of books (little girl), the warm whisper of fall (nothingness), the shape of her face (when I was nothingness).

The way her eyes become glassy orbs (when I was nothingness) and the way his hand brushes mine (when I did not belong to Me).

Suddenly, suddenly, I am not walking down the street and looking into the faces of people I will never Know. Suddenly, suddenly I am not going anywhere, the destination wiped off the map, present and future melting away. Like a storm washes away a child’s chalk drawing, now, right now, now, blurs and swirs and the colors are running together and all that made sense is no longer even anything at all, a forgotten memory, a chalk drawing. I’m lost inside a painting and I’m at the mercy of the man holding the brush. It’s like I’m on a roller coaster and the roller coaster is fucking Starry Night and someone let Van Gogh drive, even though everyone knows he’s had a couple.

And the man holding the brush is painting so fast it’s making me sick and I want to grab on to something tightly, something to hold me up before the hairs of his brush can sweep me up, up and away to the drawing of Yesterday. Is he painting backwards, back through the days? Maybe. Or does he remember Yesterday, remember it so well that his brush knows every angle, every corner of the canvas, down to the smudges and dried bubbles of paint? Today, I say to the man. Today, now, Me. But I don’t say anything at all, really, because the man has already decided I will not have a voice, because today is Yesterday. And I do not have a voice.

The colors are reforming, the new, or old, painting is Here but the trick is I am not. I cry and scream and rip at my world, scratching at Beauty and tearing at Terror. I am a whimpering child, all, all, alone, and I’m staring into the faces of people who will never Know This. I tell myself Yesterday is not Today, that I am holding the brush, that I am the man. But the man is clever, a talented artist, a voice of his generation. There are thoughts now, thoughts of Yesterday is All and the rest is an illusion, a forgotten memory, as simple and as short-lived as a chalk drawing.

And Yesterday happened because of the warm whisper of fall. The shape of her face.

I breathe.

Colors sucked in.

Colors breathed out.



I am holding a brush. I think. It is hard to be sure. I cannot see it, but I think I feel it in my fingers, feel the weight, the tingling energy. I grip tighter. I am holding a brush. I am not holding a brush.




You, I, Us

February 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

depersonalization- is an anomaly of the mechanism by which an individual has self-awareness, anxiety symptom often related to trauma

depersonalization-fancy psychological term which should not be granted too much authority

Mind, Body, Soul.

I am talking to you as I lie on the bed, the couch, the floor. My voice is hardly a whisper because you are strangling my throat. My mouth is slack, the air is coming in, going out, coming in. You squeeze harder, your hands are turning red and your knuckles white, but I am speaking. To you. To you while I clutch my stupid fists to withstand the pain. We are supposed to be friends, more like friends. This is the not the way this is supposed to be. We are supposed to be One. You are supposed to be my haven, my safe place. We are lifelong partners in crime.

But here I am on the floor with tears in my eyes and I’m looking at you, running my hands over every part of you and this is the way it is. I have been betrayed. Or are you the innocent victim, for whom I should have infinite compassion? My brain is bogged down with your concerns. Where do yours end, and mine begin?

I wish I knew.

Because you are my body. The body I was given. And this body has failed me and lifted me up. Barely out of the womb, barely here, barely before one breath could join with all others in an age-old atmosphere, you failed. You sputtered, you sputtered, but you did not die. Hospitals, waiting rooms, flashing lights and yells and darkness. Sputter-ing, sput-tering. Men and women in white coats touched You, wondered at You, grabbed with urgency and held with comfort. And You were just there, innocently, as if You didn’t know what all the hubbub was about, and You wore my face.

And then You survived. In a way. An illusion of normal, an illusion of nothing out of the ordinary, an illusion of fine. But to me you were Stranger. I looked in the mirror and that’s just what I saw, You, not Me. I saw fingers and toes and nose but not Me. I didn’t get to grow into you. Or do we ever? I don’t know. There was You, there was Me. I wanted togetherness, I wanted unity, I wanted wholeness, but You were stubborn and so was I and I didn’t know You and we were like two awkward children who fall in love and never say it aloud. They grow old and they die and the unspoken love drags them to the depths. Two souls intertwined at opposite ends of the Earth.

And then there was that night in the basement of that house on the corner where we became ever farther, You and I. Because You were there and he made You His Own and where was I? You were on the couch and on his lap and I was in the corner, shaking and crying and dying. You and I.

I tried to become closer to You, I tried to make us One. I hurt You because maybe the hurt would make us One, would cross the Earth, the air, the space, the time. Battle Scars in the war for Myself. Fighting in the midst of gunfire, smoke stinging my eyes and death ringing in my ears and screams shattering my heart.Feel the weight, heat of a weapon in callused fingers and search for souls to save and souls to destroy but find nothing, nothing, nothing, smoke. Black. Heat. Battle. Battle for Me. Battle for I. But it was not on the field, the streets, the open. The battle was in the bathroom on the edge of the tub. The battle was in my fingers, in my heart.

But just as war solves no problems for the world, it solves nothing for Ourselves. We are left bleeding and wounded and we were ever farther, farther apart. I cried for You. I cried for the loss, surrender of I.

And finally, finally I was done, finished, extinguished and we lay together, collapsed and exhausted. You on top of me, on my chest and I could no longer breathe, and I stopped talking, stopped speaking, I gave up, gave in, let go. I settled for estrangement, for disembodiment, for less than Self.


Time is a funny thing. It makes things farther and it makes thing closer. It does not move in one direction. It goes back and forth, it reverses and it speeds up and it stops. And when Time happened, You took a step. Or I did. I suppose it doesn’t matter, because we were no longer on opposite ends of the Earth. We were on opposite ends of the Earth, give or take a few countries. And that mattered.

Some days I wander away from You, and some days I tiptoe, and some days I run. And even though often we are distant, sometimes we truly are One, and it is ecstasy. I am okay when we are far, because soon we will be close.

I Hate You. I Love You.



I Love You.



Where Am I?

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