Changing Scenery and Changing Style

Probably one of the worst stereotypes that others observe about writers is seeing the guy, sitting in the cafe (be it a neighbourhood nook or a Starbucks) by himself, laptop on his table or in his lap, looking around and observing others. Often, I hear others mock this trope with one liners like, “Do people see me writing? They see me writing? That makes me a real writer. I’ve never been published but I’m writing in a cafe and other people see me so I’m a real writer.” This has even been a joke on Family Guy (which is how you know when a stereotype has outlived any truth behind it – case and point, every joke on Dads; I guess we can thank Seth MacFarlane for doing his part to kill stereotypes). As often as I cringe at myself for this, I’m often that guy sitting in cafes or diners or even bars, laptop on the table, being the bad stereotype. But there’s an actual legitimate reason for writing in different public spaces.

Knowing myself, knowing my peers, knowing the people I went to university with, and being the kind of geek that actual researches this kind of thing, writers are often easily distracted, horrible procrastinators, insecure, anxious, and equal parts creatures of habit and constantly bored. Yes, these are more stereotypes, but Seth MacFarlane has yet to bastardize these into cheap pop-culture reference jokes. But, because of all of these things, I constantly find myself in need of changes of scenery. I’ll pick a new bit of scenery, stick with it for a few weeks or months, and then need to change everything again. Right now, I’m writing in the dining room of my apartment. I do have an office in my apartment, which doubles up as a storage space for me and my girlfriend. When I lived with my parents (up until a few months ago when I finally moved out at the sad age of 26), I would often take over different rooms of the house at different times including the kitchen, the TV room, my bedroom, the spare bedroom, the space basement office, and even the garage hoping for some sort of new scenery to stimulate something in my brain to get those creative juices flowing. This is a tried and true technique for getting work done and growing new ideas.

And this is why we see writers sitting in cafes: the need for a change of scenery to get a new idea rolling.

This becomes especially necessary when trying out something new. Being a creature of habit, I tend to fall into periods of obsession. For a few weeks, I’ll really be into Philip K Dick. The next month after that, I’ll get really into Neil Gaiman. I’ll take a huge left turn after that and get really into Wes Anderson films. Then I’ll get really into a few different jazz records. When I fall into periods of obsession, I read and research and find videos and other comparable material, I become a brief expert in whatever it is I’m into at that time. And of course, it all influences what and how I write.

Lately, I have been writing a lot of science fiction and darker speculative fiction. I’ve been using the genre and the format to comment on social and political issues of these modern times and blah blah blah blah blah. You get the idea and I don’t want to sound like as bad of a stereotype as I sometimes look like. But I’ve also grown a little bored with what I’ve been doing, which is why I think I’ve started with the over-analytical essays that I’ve been posting on here so regularly lately. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

There’s nothing worse than becoming stagnant in something you used to be really good at. Passion dies, boredom sets in, and you keep trying to create the same thing over and over again just to recreate that same feeling of creating something so awesome once before. The best cure for stagnancy is to step away and try something new. There’s no point in banging your head against a wall hoping to get something dead to stand up and walk. If your brain and energy isn’t into it, it’s never going to happen.

But let me be clear about something, this isn’t giving up. Giving up is deciding something is dead and is never going to walk. What I’m suggesting is realizing it’s dead, it’s not going to walk, but only because I don’t have the Herbert West Re-Animator formula just yet. Stepping away for a bit allows me to think things over, let ideas fizzle in my head for a bit, and let me get out whatever else is kicking around in my head at the time.

I think this is why so many older punk rockers have been putting out bluegrass records. I’m not sure if that’s something of a dead trend now, but especially between like 2005 and 2010, it seemed like every punk rock frontman was putting out another solo record: Tim Barry (Avail), Chuck Regan (Hot Water Music), Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), and so on. Especially after Kensrue’s solo record, the Thrice records that came after that were really refreshed and original feeling and gave me the same feelings I had when I first heard Thrice during their Illusion of Safety era. I guess stepping back and doing something completely different works in a lot of different creative mediums.

I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be regularly hacking out these essays. This has been the most completed creative written projects in this short amount of time I’ve had since I was in college. I can definitely say it’s been helping me keep my head clear when I go to work (to write some more), and it’s been helping me get some fiction ideas set up. I guess for long as this will be working for me, I’ll keep doing it. You’ll know when it stops working and I’ve moved on to another room in my apartment when these essays suddenly stop appearing on this blog and I start posting something else.

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