Cheeseburger Gothic

Deadline Psyche

Posted January 24 into Writing by John Birmingham

I’ve been on deadline for a couple of weeks now, hammering away at the keys, croaking into the dictation rig, all aimed at finishing THE SHATTERED SKIES, the second book in the Cruel Stars series, before I get on a flight to Rome on Monday.

No way am I finishing that book.

But that’s okay. I knew there was no chance I would ever finish it in time, because...

NARRATOR VOICE: The deadline was coming from inside his head!

Cue Wilhelm Scream.

The deadline wasn’t set by my publishers. I did it to myself to avoid coming back from Europe in mid Feb with a truly impossible job to do. So for the last three weeks I’ve been cranking on 4000 words a day, or trying to, simply to get into a position where I could finish the manuscript at a more leisurely 2000 words a day when I get home.

Mission accomplished. I should have about 75-80K words in the bank by Monday.

One thing I am gonna try while I'm away is writing a couple of pars, here and there, that aren't driving the plot - they're just nice writing. I had a look through my story plan, plucked out a couple of scenes that are mostly descriptive, and opened some documents in Bear, the rather nifty little writing app I have on my iPhone for stuff like this. Maybe I'll never open those documents again. But hopefully I will as an alternative to, say, mindlessly browsing a Twitter feed if I find myself with ten minutes to wait for a train, or an hour or two on that train.

Example. I have to describe a ring world called Cupertino.

It's a megastructure, a Culture Orbital, as designed by Apple, or what Apple becomes given 700 years. At the moment I have no idea what it's like other than it's very big and very nice. Rather than breaking flow on the action driven plot to spend an hour or so describing this thing, I'm just going to play with the idea like a prose poem over the next three weeks and see what I have at the end of it.

The idea is I can then just cut and paste the words into the manuscript when the time comes.

9 Responses to ‘Deadline Psyche’

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted January 24
That sounds like a delightful idea.
I admit my first thought was "why is the orbital named after a San Francisco fish stew?", and realised that's Cioppino. Duck Duck Go pointed out that Cupertino is a neighborhood in California.

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Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted January 24
I used to do this kind of thing when I was working on my M.A., busy with work, on a real deadline for an essay. For the side points on the essay I'd use a bit of micro-spare time and pencil down whatever it was. I found it useful, even if I didn't use it, for getting those side points out of my head. Damn things could take up too much space in there.

she_jedi mutters...

Posted January 24
I'm intrigued by your strategy around side points. The number of times I've gone down a side point rabbit hole in an essay for uni and then had to backtrack out of it... I will try this on the next one and see if it helps keep this stuff out of my head :)

Dave W is gonna tell you...

Posted January 24
Gulp- Results may vary!

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted January 24
I certainly won't hold you responsible for my application of your technique and the results that follow!

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Matthew F. has opinions thus...

Posted January 24
I'd be interested in a little review of Bear if you have a few minutes and a mind to do it. I took a quick look at it but it's hard to get a sense of what it's like to use. There's a subscription mentioned - did you get that or is it available as a one-and-done purchase?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted January 24
I bought it outright, but I’ll check the sub model and write a quickie review. I do like it as a note taker.

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Vovchara would have you know...

Posted January 26
I have rather of topic question.
Why the hell are you traveling to Europe in February? Saying as someone who just spend freezing up my arse outside.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted January 27
I like winter food.

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The Shattered Skies. (Teaser)

Posted January 8 into Writing by John Birmingham

I'm deep into the deadine for the next book in this series. To keep myself honest (and motivated) I might drop the occasional paragraph in here. This is a from an early chapter.

At this distance, the star was a far away point of light, slightly larger, slightly brighter than the thousands of its kin scattered through the local cluster. Solar winds streamed out from the G2 main sequence burner, ionised particles and magnetic fields whipping through the heliosphere, inflating a protective bubble around the local volume, safeguarding the planets within from the harsh radioactive bath of interstellar space. In one sense the volume was small. Just one rocky planet and two gas giants, a modest little neighbourhood that had nonetheless occasioned a savage conflict between two human tribes over their contending claims to that remote and lonely world. In another sense, of course, the measure of three dimensional space both tribes thought of as the local volume was immense; so impossibly vast that the human mind was actually incapable of truly understanding it, having evolved over millions of years to comprehend distance as something measured in the number of steps needed to find food or water in a small patch of forest or savannah. At the very edge of this unimaginably huge, somewhat fluid area of space, in the electromagnetic turbulence of the constantly moving boundary between the bubble of the star’s heliosphere and the radioactive plasma of the interstaller medium, something profound was about to happen. The structure of spacetime itself suddenly flexed and warped before utterly collapsing to vomit up first one, then two human spacecraft.
A tribe had returned to its hunting grounds.

4 Responses to ‘The Shattered Skies. (Teaser)’

she_jedi mutters...

Posted January 9
Oh this is GOOD! I loved The Cruel Stars so much I can’t wait for the sequel.

Unrelated, but I went to watch the new season of the Expanse yesterday, only to discover I hadn’t watched S3. I spent about 10 mins confusedly wondering how the hell I missed an entire season in the switch from Netflix to Amazon Prime, only to realise that now I had TWO seasons to binge. WIN! The reason I bring this up is that it is filling the Cruel Stars universe shaped hole in my life until you’re done writing the Shattered Skies. Just sayin’.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted January 9
This is certainly stimulating the cerebral juices (esghh!) in anticipation for the next book. Just checked, doesn't appear to be available to pre-order. How will the beast of Bezo's know how awesomely this tome is anticipated if we can't pre-order it yet?

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted January 9
Related to your Authors for Firies offer on the twitz, I'd like to see Skomo D'Nyer and P-Turr Dartton punched in the face by someone like B'Ruz B'Chanee and R'Za B'Rati.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted January 9
Now all I want to know is the condition of the occupants of those interstellar craft. That is aside from them being bits of space barf, probably carrot. Are they space barf carrot? if so would a space wabbit eat them?
Can't really see a giant bugs bunny munching on a couple of shiploads of your characters but it would be as funny as fuck.

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Christmas party in TV land

Posted December 13 into Writing by John Birmingham

I enjoyed a quick trip down to Sydney last night for a Christmas party with the TV guys I’ve been doing some stuff with this year.

Great night. The venue was a brew pub in St Peter’s - Willie the Boatman.

I had whatever lager was on tap, because I’m finding most other beers too fruity for my gnarly old man palate these days. There was an elegant sufficiency of nosh, including three different types of sausage sandwich. The company was excellent. And I want to be a TV writer now.

Seriously. I love this stuff. Not just the wide range of Frellman-approved complimentary sausage products, but the writing. There is something about the screenplay form that really appeals to me.

Earlier this year I talked a bit about writing a pilot episode for a black comedy set in the world of espionage. (Couldn’t sleep, seething, the night of the election. Got up at 3AM and vomited my rage into the screenplay software. Finished the first draft inside a day. It was very funny. Who would have imagined that deep existential dread and loathing would have an upside?)

I put my experience with the Felafel movie to good use. Sent off the script with my invoice and promptly moved on. I didn’t forget about the screenplay, but I consciously stopped thinking about it.

Writing for screen more generally, however, was a different matter. Having acquired some new skills I was keen to polish them. So when I got back from Korea I put aside some time to write another pilot. This time an adaptation. Since A Girl in Time was the first novel I wrote after studying screenwriting to get a better grip on story structure, I decided to rework it into a TV pilot.

Smooth transition. Or relatively smooth, with a couple of caveats. The dialogue and scene setting moved from page to screen without a hitch. An hour long pilot was the perfect length to move Cady and Smith from Seattle to London. The ep finished with them escaping London on a cliffhanger. All good.

The one issue I did have, and still have to address in any future drafts, was point of view. I write point-of-view novels, of course. I hadn’t realised just how pointy until I attempted the transition to screenplay. A lot of the humour and narrative power of that book, and probably all of them, comes from the very particular world views of whichever character is narrating a chapter.

But how do you do POV on screen? To be honest, I have no fucking idea. But I’m going to find out. One way it affects the transition if you just cut and paste? You find your characters standing, talking, and doing nothing. In a novel those sections can be surrounded by passages of internal monologue and reflection. But not on screen.

That’s why that party was so good last night. A room full of people who’ve done this stuff their whole working lives. It was like talking to a bunch of kung fu masters who had all of this arcane knowledge I needed to gather.

So I’m gonna do another quick screenplay next week. A conventional crime/adventure/martial arts story based on a book idea I had a couple of years back but did nothing with.

And then back to novels for a while. Still gotta pay those bills.

4 Responses to ‘Christmas party in TV land’

Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted December 13
Smith and cady would be a great basis for TV! Be nice if it comes to fruition!

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted December 13
Yes, yes they would.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted December 13
Ask for a laugh track for the funny bits. Apparently its a TV thing. And a tag line at the end of each episode.
"Oh Cady, you sure do talk funny!" (cue laugh track, roll end credits).

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted December 13
Man, it’s like you’re looking over my shoulder.

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The weird little origami-like folds of dictating your story

Posted September 4 into Writing by John Birmingham

I'm being crushed by deadline. The sequel to Zero Day Code. So naturally in the middle of this, I lost my mind and decided it was time to have a look at my productivity. I bought a book about voice recognition software. 15 Minute Dictation by Sean Platt and Neeve Silver. Although I've been using Dragon’s dictation software for more than a decade now, it was still useful.

Honest! I didn’t waste my time! There were a couple of tricks to using dictation software, weird little origami-like folds of understanding exactly how you hold a story in your head, I suppose, that I hadn't really thought about before. And they were interacting with the way I use the pomodoro method to fuck me up, just a little bit. So I tweaked my method.

I normally work in half-hour bursts if I'm doing something I really don't want to do. That is the beating heart of the pomodoro method. Even if some writing task is completely fucking loathsome, you should be able to gut it out for twenty-five minutes. And by focusing for that small window of time you normally get past your resistance to doing The Bad Thing and the job starts to move.

When I'm working on something that I actually do want to do, I can stretch the pomodoro timer out to nearly an hour. Either 50 or 55 minutes is best. But it's not easy to talk to yourself for just under an hour. Not if you want to maintain steady progress on a narrative. It's always tempting to go back and fix up every phrase or sentence or scrap of dialogue you’ve just written. This is a completely natural process when you're typing. You don't even think about it. The words come out, they could be a little bit better, you tweak them and move on. A simple, intuitive, almost thoughtless process when typing. But not when you are using dictation software.

Oh my fucking God no.

So one of the tips for young players that this book recommended was knowing what you're going to write before you write it. This is an old hack’s trick. It is why so many of us plot out rather than just plunge into the story. You are at your most glacial when you’re trying to figure out what you are writing while you write. But you're even slower if you’re also correcting the grammar and the aesthetics of the language as you go. So slow in fact, that you can lose all of the benefits of dictation, which can be three or five or even ten times faster than composing something by hand.

So what I tried to do was reorganise the way I move through those 55-minute blocks of writing time. Rather than trying to just talk to the software for nearly an hour without a break, I wrote out the entire chapter, paragraph by paragraph, in the form of a one line summary for each par.

I then had a blueprint to refer to while I was ‘writing’ (ie, dictating).

But—and here’s the money shot—I wouldn't just look at the blueprint and try and talk my way through it, expanding each one line summary as I went. Instead I looked at the synopsis of the first par and asked myself “What is going to happen in this?”

I spent about a minute figuring it out, imagining the scene in my head, and all of the dialogue to be spoken in it. I wasn't looking for a perfect word-by-word facsimile in my head of what would soon appear on screen. I simply wanted to know what was going to happen. The story beats of the paragraph, if you will. The narrative waypoints. There’s not many of them in a single par.

This meant I was dictating about two- to three hundred words in the space of 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat the process over an hour and you get about five or six slabs of wordage, totalling 1200 or 1300 words in all.

Fuckin' romantic, innit, eh?

I didn’t edit or second guess myself as I went, I just tried to move as quickly through those short bursts of ‘writing’ as I could - after roughly figuring out where they would go, narratively. A short break followed, five minutes or so, and then I moved onto half an hours editing of the just transcribed copy.

It’s always best to edit dictated sections on the same day. The software is much better than it used to be, but there will still be errors and you’re more likely to clean them up accurately when the composition is fresh in your mind.

A developer who (I think) also writes video game storylines asked me on Twitter how I changed gears between creation and the ‘analysis’ of editing. She found it difficult to switch. It might be as simple a trick as thinking of those short, immediate bursts of editing, not as editing, but simply as more writing. You’re expanding and sculpting and refining the copy you just threw at the screen. I normally add another 25% in volume at this point. Structural and copy editing are different and can wait until later.

4 Responses to ‘The weird little origami-like folds of dictating your story’

Matthew F. mumbles...

Posted September 5
+++But it's not easy to talk to yourself for just under an hour.+++

Oh, I don't know, I manage it pretty well when I'm on a task or out walking and have something on my mind and forget there are people around. And then I stop to take stock, or waiting to cross a road, and see all the looks I'm getting and get that sinking realisation that my internal monologue wasn't quite so internal for a little while there.

Anyway. Probably not what you meant. Carry on.

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Doccs is gonna tell you...

Posted September 9
Thank You JB-I’ve been struggling with VR software as part of my work.
Your idea kinda gels with what I’ve learnt that you have to speak in phrases, ie ones you’ve already thought out.

Will give your method a try.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted September 11
#SausageMaking
In a previous career I schlepped AV equipment. One day a very casually dressed bloke asked if I minded him working in the back of a room I was setting for a show. Of course, so we each got on with our work. I noticed he wore a headset and would occasionally talk. I assumed a phone call. As I finished up we had a brief conversation. He is/was one of the lord high poo-bahs of the Federal Family Court. He was reading submissions and dictating notes via Dragon. I mentioned I knew a bloke who wrangled words professionally and who was down one arm at the time who spoke to the Dragon. He showed me how it learnt to understand him and the specific arcana of law-speak. He mentioned how unlike Ye olde memorex cassette & typist transcription, he composed each note in his head before speaking. An additional 30 seconds before clicking resulted in a significant decrease in edit & revision. Also some sweet ass tagging methods for subsequent analysis.

So when can we have a Spoilerific Spoily thread on 0DC &/or TCS ?

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Doccs has opinions thus...

Posted September 12
Thanks Nblob-helps me understand a bit more.

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Alternate realities

Posted May 23 into Writing by John Birmingham

One of the nice things about writing for a living is the way you get paid to retreat from the world of real things. I've been in full retreat since about 7.30 on Saturday night. The entry below, "Dark Thoughts", was composed in the hours before dawn when I'd woken up, seething and unable to get back to sleep.

I brought myself down to my office, wrote that blog post, and opened up Scrivener. I started to work on a TV script. I can't talk about it in detail because we're still in the early stages of development. But I can say this. I fucking LOVE writing for TV. I get lost in it. Sometimes I get lost in novels too, but not like this. I've been racking up long hours at the keyboard all week. Not because I'm on deadline or under pressure, but because once I step into the imagined world of this show I find I much prefer it to the real world. I don't want to leave.

Even when I do leave, when I push back from the computer and rejoin the family for dinner, lets say, I find myself repeating long stretches of dialogue without realising that I'm doing it.

"What did you say?" Jane will ask. And I have to mutter something about just talking to myself. To be honest, it's a little embarrassing that it's been happening so much.

Still, better than reality.

I don't think the retreat from an unpleasant outer world explains why I've spent so much time so deeply embedded in this new, inner world. I think it might partly have something to do with the structure of storytelling for the screen.

The irreducible element at the core of a screenplay or a teleplay is the scene. Each scene is a world unto itself, but unlike a book it is an almost bare stage. When writing a novel you make everything bigger. When writing a script, it goes the other way. Everything gets stripped back, reduced to essences. It's fascinating, almost mesmerising.

I've now finished the first draft of the pilot for this show. I have no idea whether it will get any further. But even so, even with a chapter of World War 3.1 to write, and a whole novel in the Zero Day Code franchise to finish, I feel myself being pulled back into the world of the TV show, almost as though I am trapped in a dangerous rip.

13 Responses to ‘Alternate realities’

WarDog puts forth...

Posted May 23
Just in case it doesn't make it to T, can it reprised in written form?

jl mutters...

Posted May 23
A fine question!

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 23
It could be, but I really hope to see it made.

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jl would have you know...

Posted May 23
Sounds like great fun, actually. Yeah, I got lost in my latest (an alternate history) pretty bad for the last two weeks; now the rough draft is done. Definitely know what you're saying, JB.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted May 23
I am drawn by the imagery of your writing being caught in a rip, so Australian. Since Saturday I have been trying to follow Alasdair Gray's aphorism "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation" but it is hard.

Matthew F. swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 24
Have you read WALKAWAY yet? That line and sentiment come up quite a bit in it.

Barnesm mutters...

Posted May 25
Not yet, but Cory Doctorow is always on my to read list.

Matthew F. mutters...

Posted May 25
Be interested to get your take on it when you've read it. I don't reread much these days but I'll probably take another trip through it myself soon.

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23
My favorite thing about writing and others people's writing in some ways is that you get to play in a world where you control almost everything. The good guys normally win or are so heroic it appears to be a win and the bad folks always take a licking. Far removed from the real world but a beautiful place.

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Oldy mumbles...

Posted May 23
It sounds like some chicken soup for your soul, and I for one cheer that on. I can relate to how dark these last few days have been, and anything that brightens that, I'm cheering for.

Have fun mate, and I look forward to enjoying more JB content.

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Leftarc swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23
Sounds like good times. As a fan of the West Wing (of which seems to get more and more wistful, and yet further away from reality every single day), and the West Wing Weekly podcast, I remember a quote from the late John Spencer; 'First comes the word'. Early episodes of the podcast tell of how late the scripts were for the West Wing when Aaron Sorkin was writing was because he spent hours making sure it was right. And it was, actors had to read the script exactly, there was no improvisation, and you could not change any of the words. At all.
This is why I imagine TV writing would be a whole rabbit hole to go down. I think the difference between a novel and TV is that there is more setting out, and 'telling the story' for TV. In a book like The Stand, my imagination created how Stu Redman looked and spoke. But then watching the mini series, Stu is Gary Sinise, since then Stu's words are spoken in that Gary Sinise drawl.
And whilst you bang away at Zero Day Code, and since I brought it up, Stephen King also wrote the screen play for The Stand Mini Series. You might be onto something.

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Sparty mutters...

Posted May 23
I'd like me some JB TV.
interesting to note that @pennyred who some people tagged as a good inspiration for whats her name in the time travel books is now a writer on Joss Whedons new series..

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thetick has opinions thus...

Posted May 26
How is writing for TV different from writing a novel, for example?

I mean, is it that you describe each scene, character actions, lines, etc?

Like, when you write a scene are you laying down the setting, the clothing, etc, or does that get filled in later?

Is it fiction or non-fiction?

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Writing in cafes is bullshit

Posted March 28 into Writing by John Birmingham

I’m currently sitting in one of my favourite coffee joints. Pourboy in south Brisbane. (Okay, I guess I'm not any sitting there anymore cos I wrote this hours before posting it). You might have seen me rave about their croque madame because their croque monsieur is fucking awesome.

I find myself here once or twice a week during the school year because I drop Thomas nearby to a bunch of extracurricular stuff before class starts. Pourboy is a great place, but there’s a reason I’m writing this blog post and not the book chapter I should be working on right now. Pourboy is too good. It’s popular and crowded and noisy and I don’t know how any of these pretend bullshit writers and poets and citizen journalists ever get anything done in all of these fucking cafes they seem to live in because... GAH!

It’s busy here.

Funny thing is, it’s not usually this busy when I come through because I get here about 6.30 in the AM. It’s now just after nine, and I’ll be here a while longer while I run down the clock to an interview at the ABC studios down the road.

I brought in the new iPad, thinking I’d get some work done, and I did, but nothing heavy or deep. Not the book chapters I have due, or the TV script I’m working on. Nope. This ain’t the place for that. I avoided getting caught in a social media spiral, so yay for me, I guess. But I’ve been here for nearly two hours now and I’ve basically been triaging emails, writing short blog posts, and knocking over chickenshit admin that I’d leave until it was way too late if I was at my desk.

Given all that, I suppose it hasn’t been a complete write off. In a way it’s been kind of instructive. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the unconscionable waste of time that Twitter has become (and Facebook always was). I’ve been thinking about how I always mean to blog regularly but never quite build up the head of steam to keep it going because I’m so fucking busy during my writing day that I can’t justify spending time on the Burger. And when I down tools at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is more writing.

I wonder then if the thing to do might be to carve out a little time in the early morning a couple of days a week, to do the stuff I’ve been forced to do here today by all these noisy fuckers invading my normally quiet coffee shop.

I’ve come back around to the idea that social networks are poison. That it’s not just the nazis and the advertising and the advertising for Nazis. It’s the very nature of the thing, the way these platforms are engineered to destroy people’s concentration, to lure them into mindless scrolling, and swiping and liking and kommunting. They are also, of course, intellectual property traps. Everything you post on Facebook belongs to the Zuck. Everything. And the original deal the Book made with artists, that the creators would provide content and the Zuck would gather the audience, that’s long gone. Now you provide the content AND you pay for access to the audience.

I’ll admit, it’s a lot of thinking, for a morning coffee stop to fill in some time. But I dont often get the time to sit and think. Even if I can barely hear my own thoughts.

I should do more of it.

16 Responses to ‘Writing in cafes is bullshit’

jl ducks in to say...

Posted March 29
Thanks for the warning re: IP traps. Hadn't thought of that, although I'm not surprised.

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jason asserts...

Posted March 29
I cant write anything with the TV on let alone in a crowded cafe. Although I do listen to the sounds of a crowded cafe on spotify sometimes when trying to concentrate, hmmm...

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted March 29
Yeah, me too. It’s weird, innit.

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Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted March 29
Weirdly this sounds to me like a productive strategy, you admit to yourself its stuff that wouldn't othewise get done. I confess I never considered a graded level of distraction tailored to the work I needed to accomplish as a productivity tool. Nice one.

damian has opinions thus...

Posted March 29
I’m a believer in this concept of modes that you seem to be describing. You can write certain content in a certain context, because that’s what you have time for or it’s what you have brainspace (tipping a hat to Tim and Debbie) for.

Sitting in the food court at Brookside at the moment, after eating two greasy pizza slices from the kebab shop waiting for a bus (like the old days I guess).

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted March 29
I distresses me that I know who you mean by Tim and Debbie.

damian reckons...

Posted April 7
...
Because it means you’re over 40?

Matthew F. reckons...

Posted April 9
Age is just a state of mind, damian.

Or should I say, age is just a Braaiiinn Spaaace.

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted March 29
I was thinking today that a café might be a good place to study my online degree to avoid distractions at home. I might give it a go, mainly to see if the pretentiousness and embarrassment of getting out a laptop or tablet in a hipster café would make me actually study. As opposed to sitting at home and going look! a dog to pat, look! a cat to meow at, look! a video game to play.

On the plus side of social media, without it I would never had met and continued to know novelists, musicians, artists, art gallery curators and owners. Its been good in a lot of ways. But I have had to filter out the angry posters and tediously easy politics (of which I'm definitely one) .

But as a boredom shifter of the void that is the modern soul, it really needs a hand break. It will probably come in the form of a Facebook myspace moment or an Microsoft anti trust lawsuit.

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted March 29
I honestly don’t know how JK Rowling managed to write Harry Potter in a cafe. Maybe it was before they became hipster traps of “pretend bullshit writers”...? Maybe she started it???

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted March 29
I was pondering this very question just yesterday.

Matthew F. ducks in to say...

Posted March 29
I suspect she spent a lot of time in there outside the breakfast/lunchtime/after work rushes. (It was owned by a relative, apparently, so at least she didn't have to contend with "Scuse me, but the boss says you have to order something or leave".

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted March 29
I’d hang out for hours in quiet cafés in the 80s and 90s. Mostly they’d be okay if it wasn’t busy and you got at least one coffee or a pot of tea. Worst you would get is after a while a polite “Are you going to order anything else? It’s just there are people waiting for a table...”

I did get writing done that way, though it was with a good old A4 notebook and a pen (or several pens, ball points ran out too fast, felt tip sharpies hadn’t really been invented). That’s while living alone or in share houses, too, which is a very different life.

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Matthew F. reckons...

Posted March 29
There's a particular caff here that was pretty much my second home in my 30s. I'd knock off the day job at sixish, head in there, eat, then bust out the laptop and write until they threw me out at 10pm and usually go home and put another hour or two in before bed. It was a pain if it got too crowded, in which case I'd go elsewhere, but most of the time the noise level was just right, just enough to lull the looking-for-distraction part of my brain so it didn't interfere with the writing but not enough to, well, interfere with the writing. So maybe it's just a question of finding the *right* café.

Interesting thing was that when I was in a café with a certain amount of background noise I was fine, but on the nights I went to write in the library at ANU where it was much quieter, a single whispered conversation six desks away would drive me insane.

Did you ever work in an old-school newsroom in your journalist days, JB? I know Terry Pratchett said that once you've learned to write surrounded by ringing phones and shouting sub-editors you can write anywhere.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 29
Yeah, it's a weird thing. I have no trouble writing in crowded newsrooms. It's a background buzz, I guess.

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 31
I’m a business analyst so I have to write requirements documents, business cases etc, so creative but in a formal way? And I find I can write in a mildly noisy office, to the point where i’m doing my writing workshop stuff for uni in the office after hours before I go home because once i’m home the procrastination bug gets me and my creativity dries up. It’s weird!

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