After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.
Lately I have been trying to write in cafés. OK. I tend to do less writing and more eavesdropping-disguised-as-writing. It makes me feel a little bad.
Because I know I am going to stumble on some gold soon.
I remember chatting away with Steve in this little teeny coffee shop hidden away in some teeny lane-way, as Melbourne likes to do, and there was this guy sitting nearby with his notebook open, pen poised … I was sure he was writing down our conversation. It made me whisper even though we weren’t saying anything all that intriguing or eavesdropping-worthy. If we had I would have written it down.
That is the gamble you take if you enter a relationship with a writer.
I remember thinking how I couldn’t do that. Sit in a café and
Until I did.
During my masters I wrote an entire scene (even stole some direct quotes) from the very loud, very interesting, conversation a mother and daughter were having near my lonely table in a café. I took it to my lecturer for a dramaturgy session (code for – I am going to rip your writing to shreds and you are going to take it) and waited, with bated breath, as he read through it. He loved it. I, not good at taking compliments, had to dismiss it in some way and explained how I had stolen it from a conversation at a café. “Do more writing in cafés then,” he said.
So I have been.
And I think that’s OK.
I like my café. The coffee is good. That helps. And there is a sunny table. And whole range of characters to watch and listen in on. That helps too.
I watched a woman gulping water. It made me feel sad for some reason. Her shaky hands sneakily applied lipstick, one hand holding a tiny mirror, the other wobbling around her lips. She kept her bag nestled on her lap like a precious pedigree cat. She kept her head lowered at an angle that suggested she wasn’t well or didn’t feel worthy to look up or both.
I saw another woman looking at the waiter through squinted eyes as he explained the specials. She kept her hand elegantly under her chin and asked a lot of questions in one those affected Australian accents. She ordered a latte to have after the meal. The meal she chose was not the one she had asked a lot of questions about. She had wondered if the goat’s cheese was very strong. She didn’t like strong goat’s cheese. The waiter told her it was very young, very fresh. I don’t think she believed him.
At another table I saw someone who used to be someone. He kept his head in his hands, pretending to not want anyone to notice him or attempting to recover from a hang-over or both.
Another waiter was just waiting. Cloth in hand. Hoping for a spill. I hoped not to accommodate but I do have a tendency for spilling things and other general clumsiness … “Spilling things and other general clumsiness” – could be the title of something, someday, maybe … The man who used to be someone makes me question why I even bother writing at all. He used to write and star in a sit-com. And now look at him. I wish he’d speak so I could scribble down his conversation.
I overheard a couple talking about dividends and CEOs and maintaining the asset and fragile infrastructure and the sector. They talked about the sector a lot. And repeated what the other said, a lot. She was very agreeable. He was very loud.
SHE: You’re sounding a bit disillusioned about the sector.
HE: I’m not disillusioned about the sector.
I think they’ll be popping up in something.
I overheard a conversation that jumped from conspiracies about MH370 to Shane Warne to the GST on baby clothes.
Gold? OK. Maybe not yet … but I am filling up my notebooks with characters and ideas and weird little snippets of conversations that could, maybe, one day, turn into something. Hopefully … we shall see. It could be the change of scenery, it could be the ridiculous amount of coffee I am drinking but, either way, there is inspiration to be found and stolen from your local café.