Passion Fruit

After an afternoon at the Hut, a plate of fried tofu and two pots of jasmine tea, I have 2,000 words, a big fresh scene, tea stains and sweet-and-sour splotches all over my pages, and three new pornographic doodlings. Tits and ass in the left margin, flaccid dick in the right. Never the twain shall meet.

The waitress brings another pot of tea. She never asks what I’m up to, never hurries me along, always remembers to ask if I want a cupcake before she brings the check. I wonder what her home looks like. Macrame and spider plants, yellow Formica table with three tulip chairs, sunburst clock (of course it works!), a spoon rest made of abalone shells set in acrylic, two Ikea tables and a bunch of glass grapes in a bowl. She’s a beautiful hipster, with a long black braid and a constellation of freckles across her nose. I’ve made a cliche of her, which is less than she deserves. I’m sure she has a pencil skirt in her closet, even if it’s way at the back.

You won’t believe what I just wrote, I want to tell her. A big big scene, an earthshaker oh baby oh boy, and you wouldn’t believe what Julian just said to Celia. He wants her bad, you see, he’s pushing hard. He can’t stop shaking her tree. But from my booth by the door I am god, and I say he won’t even wet the tip. Isn’t that a thought, freckle-face? While you’ve been filling my teapot and serving drunken love noodles to the nurses at table four, and setting out the chopsticks, and wiping up the spills and offering passion-fruit cupcakes all around—imagine, you walked right by them time and again. You say you didn’t hear a thing? Didn’t catch the vibe? Really, not at all. Yes, I do look calm. I know, an island of calm, yes, I’ve been told. But my pages runneth over.

Do you write in public? Ever feel like you’re putting one over?

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43 responses

  1. I do write in public, sometimes, but I apparently make very odd faces–amused, angry, or angsty depending on the scene—and giggle, too, so I have to keep the headphones off so I can police myself before someone calls the butterfly net brigade.

    Thanks heavens I don’t write erotica . . . heaven knows what faces I’d be making!

    • What a visual. The mad writer at work.

      I have a poker face. The only way you’d know if my writing was going well would be by watching the pen move. It was flying yesterday, it could hardly keep up.

  2. I’ve written in public, and even though I don’t write erotica, it feels as if I do. I look up from the work, congested, drugged, and have to shake myself back into the world.

    • I know what you mean. Even a straight-ahead scene feels illicit when you write it in public. Which is probably why I like to write that way.

  3. Gorgeous, seductive post though I’m worried about the flaccid cock – hope that didn’t crop up in your word torrent. Did it? And spider plants and macrame, freckled noses, jasmine tea – you cool writer chick. Nah I don’t much write in public. Edits, yes. Though I remember once I was so taken with a story I charged through to the end of it on a train to Florence. It was published well and is now my title story for Pelt. Never changed a word of it despite all those stares in the carriage.

    • NO flaccid cocks in my stories, believe you me, except in the margins. I can’t bring myself to doodle an erection: too weird-looking, too aggressive, too distracting.

  4. I’ve played the piano in public. In front of small groups, to millions, I’ve spoken in public, (the millions was on TV and I had diarrhea two days prior and lost six pounds), But write in public…jeez, I don’t think so.
    It’s like Thanksgiving dinner. When family arrives the house looks great, smells good, food is phenomenal. If you saw the process by which the days event was prepared you’d probably stave off eating at my table for a burger at McD’s.
    No sir, I ain’t exposing my process to the fans. Red mu-mu and no bra does not a restaurant patron make. Did I say no? I mean no. Don’t ask again. Just the thought. No.

    • I will say that the responses to my question have surprised me. I expected everyone to say, Of COURSE I write in public, all writers write in public, Averil, you dweeb. But apparently this is not so.

      (I would like to have a red mu-mu. Hott.)

  5. I’ve fantasized about writing in public. Usually, I’m too busy scrutinizing everything and taking mental notes. The characters that cross my path definitely end up in my stories though.

    • I think my shyness is a help in this area. I tend to not look around that much, at least not at people. And when I do it’s pretty covert.

      I caught someone looking at me the other day, though. A young woman was sitting with her friend, and when I looked up she got really embarrassed and looked away. Maybe I should be more worried about my writer-face.

      • Ha! Maybe. She was probably curious. I know I’m drawn to people who are comfortable alone in public and seem completely entrenched in their own world. I want to know their secrets.

    • Finally, someone who understands me. The public spaces are like magic go-go juice for me. Partly because I don’t give myself anything else to do while I’m there: no computer, no spare book, phone tucked well away. I can either sit there or write, so I write.

      Does anyone ever ask what you’re writing?

      • No. I did once have a frat-boy-type at the next table in the bar say something about writing in journals. I was all like “I’m writing a poem, motherfucker.” But I only said that in my head. Now if I had had more beer…

  6. Nope, never write in public. I really need solitude to enter that creative mental space. And as for vibe, most of the time I would like to catch it too. It’s hard enuf for me to crank out the words, much less imagine someone else is seeing anything more than defeat and anguish on my face.

    • Someday I’m going to write a post and get you all to describe these writing faces. I didn’t know you were all so expressive while doing the deed.

  7. No, I haven’t. Similar to Paul, I need quiet. Those walking by would make me constantly look up b/c I’m such a people watcher. But, if I ever did want to write in public, I know the perfect place. It’s our little home town deli. The floors are intact from the early 1900’s, a constellation of tiny tiles placed just so, the old fashioned crisscross pattern typical to that time. The bar stools, stainless steel bases with green vinyl seats are still positioned at what used to be the soda fountain. She serves mixed greens salad with sprouts, and her own homemade poppy seed dressing. Chicken salad with walnuts and grapes. Homemade tomato soup and grilled pimento cheese w/Black Forest ham on a croissant. Actually, now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be able to write there. I’d be too busy stuffing my face.

    • That sounds like the perfect hangout for me. I do like sprouts. In Vegas I frequented a coffee shop near my house that made the most delicious veggie sandwiches, and they’d always give me extra pickles on the side for writerly munching. I write at the library sometimes, but it’s never as productive for me. I get hungry and have to leave. Better to have food and caffeine available at all times.

  8. I envy you being able to go out and write in public. I write like i sleep — in total silence, or maybe with the sports on TV in the background. Plus my puppy JoJo loves to sleep on my foot while I write and then let me know when it’s time for a walk. I would feel so guilty leaving her at home.

    See. Just like in the rest of my life. It all depends on the dogs.

    • Sweet JoJo. My Izzy would much prefer that I stay with her. She doesn’t buy my explanations at all, and gives me a thorough sniff-down when I get home as though I’ve been cheating on her with some other dog.

  9. I’ve tried writing in a few coffee shops. My favorite is in Coupeville WA (when I visit my old MFA program). Mosquito Fleet is right on the water, and I sit outside with a steaming cuppa–inspiration always seems to strike. Unfortunately that’s 2,000 miles away. The coffee joints around here always have at least one salesman type bellowing into a cell phone.

  10. “Do you write in public? Ever feel like you’re putting one over?”

    I rarely write in public. I often feel like I’m putting one over. Even when I’m asleep.

  11. Yes. I love the duality, the active secrecy, the detached presence. It’s an invigorating solitude and I too feel like I’m getting away with something. I’ve even felt a sense of exhibitionism, being so inward and intimate, so engaged and yet so visible, exposed. Writing in a public space is often not enough, though. There has to be life around, activity, energy of one kind or another, something to tune in to while at the same time tuning out of direct involvement, which of course has a way of feeling like a far deeper and more fascinating immersion than simple participation could ever permit.

    • That’s it exactly. Being outside of any one particular conversation means you’re part of all of them, and none of them. Voyeur and exhibitionist all at once. I find too that when I’m home alone I’m always reaching out—to my blog friends, to the internet, to my music collection—but when I’m in a crowd I retreat inward, effortlessly.

      It’s nice to meet you. I like your blog.

  12. I sometimes write in public spaces, but almost always I’m alone, deep inside nature, and it’s always a shock when some bushwalker strolls by.
    I do have one story though, written in a noisy club full of alcohol-fuelled stupid people. I wrote it on beer coasters, with the pencils they supply for gamblers to contribute their wages to the cause. It’s the darkest thing I ever wrote. Maybe the best thing I ever wrote. Pretty much everyone hates it. But when I read it, a part of me wants to be it.
    I don’t write in places like that any more.

    • That’s where I would love to be able to write. I try, often, to write at parks and the beach and such, but it always turns introspective and veers off-topic.

      Do you still have the coasters?

  13. I always write on public transportation and the few times it has been problematic were the scenes where I cried. Horrifying.

  14. I have been thinking about this whole public writing thing and I wanted to add another spud to the pot.
    I went to a wedding awhile back, alone with my kids, my husband couldn’t go, and as everyone was up, dancing and celebrating the day, I sat back, pulled out the little notebook I carry, and wrote. They know I write a column and have a deadline, so they weren’t offended.

    I felt like I had set up an easel and was painting a parade. (At least no one looked over my shoulder at the canvas,) I just came across what I wrote that day and was excited because I had forgotten I had done that. I couldn’t wait to read what I had written.
    Well…it was unadulterated crap. I shall call it shit-writing.
    My best attempts, both reflective and inventive, are done in private.

  15. Strikes me as a brilliant way to stay on topic, given your subject matter. The inner exhibitionist in you, perhaps? Me, I’ve tried to write in public, but I kept being interrupted by the young eager waiters who obviously thought I was just posing there to get a man. Which couldn’t have been further from the truth…

  16. When I write in public, I spend far too much time superimposing the people I observe into my ms. Sometimes that works to my benefit. Often, I end up with superfluous characters who go nowhere.

    Off the topic a bit: tofu? You like it, eh? Tomorrow I am starting a seven-day vegan experience, as part of my 52/52 Project. Enlighten me on this mystery matter…

    • Seven days vegan is easy-peasy, you will have no trouble at all. Resort to rice and beans if necessary. They can be done one hundred forty-two different ways.

      Tofu is almost flavorless. It tastes like whatever you eat with it. You might try it as an ingredient in a dip for veggies if you’re gun-shy, or have it fried like mozzarella sticks if you’re feeling adventurous. I eat a lot of Thai food, with the tofu in place of meat in curries and such. Yummy.