Or, in my experience today, a coffee shop.
I live in a land lousy with writers. We are not just the land of 10,000 lakes: we are the land of 10,000 novelists.
Indeed, just in my random little neighborhood, I know of seven whose houses are in walking distance, and another twenty who are within a five minute driving distance. And these are just the people I know and enjoy hanging out with.
The other day, I met up with a bunch of kidlit author-types from the greater Twin Cities area at a pretty cool bar in Saint Paul. I love these people, I really do. They are funny and sassy and salty-mouthed, three things that I always appreciate in a person. They are also quick-witted and furiously smart, which means, of course, that I’m always about nine steps behind in any given conversation (childbirth, alas, has significantly impacted my IQ), but I love it anyway.
At this particular bar night, the always-lovely Erin Downing (author of Kiss It and Prom Crashers) informed me that the Caribou Coffee near my house has magical powers.
Well, that’s not how she put it. She just said that she got a lot of work done there while her two youngest kids were at preschool. This, of course, I interpreted as having magical powers. Because right now, getting work done seems magical.
And you know what? I went over there, sat down, installed the good old Mac Freedom to keep my sorry self off the shiny, shiny Internets, and know what I discovered? That coffee shop is magic. MAGIC I TELL YOU! I’ve gotten more done in the last three days than I have in the last month. I think I may go there every day, if I don’t destroy my stomach lining in the process from so much dang coffee.
Today, when I arrived at the coffee shop, I ran into Ms. Downing, and of course it was wonderful.
“I’m so glad you told me about this coffee shop,” I said to her. “It has magical powers. This Caribou is MAGIC.”
The girl who was ringing me up stared at me, open mouthed. “It is?” she said. “I work in a magical Caribou? I had no idea.”
And I think I made her day.
One of the things about this weird job of writing books and selling books and hoping people like your books, is that it can be tricky to find colleagues. And so we work alone in our insufferable insecurities and annoying neuroses. This, alas, is attractive to no one.
When I was writing The Mostly True Story Of Jack I had no writing group (except for during one, small bit of it, but I couldn’t keep it going) and I really didn’t know any writers very well. And the ones I did know, I was too shy to reach out to. And so I worked alone, writing only during the hours of four and six in the morning, and showing my work to no one, until I finally got an agent.
There were times, after my book sold, that my work as a writer was so divorced from my everyday life – none of my friends were writers, it was hard to talk about at playgroups or at the park – that I started to wonder if I had secretly made the whole thing up.
After all, I’m pretty good at making things up.
One of the things that I’ve tried to do over the last year is to forge stronger bonds with the writers of this community – both my physical community of the Twin Cities, as well as the tribes of cool writers who form little bands online. Because this work is hard, and because we need colleagues, and we need to blow off steam after work sometimes, and we need the support of caring co-workers.
And sometimes, someone needs to tell us about magical coffee shops. Because something needs to give us a little kick in the pants every once in a while. And magical coffee shops are as good a kick as any.