Rather than sit inside at my desk or the local library, writing, I opted to spend a couple of hours at the local Starbucks. I ordered a Very Berry Hibiscus, and copped-a-squat on one of chairs outside of the local caffeine hole and dove into the story in-progress.
The sun warmed my recently manicured toes and melted the ice in my slightly over-priced refresher. I was hovering in and out of consciousness as only writers do when adrift on the page. I was dimply aware of the hum of conversations swirling overhead at neighboring tables but not enough to drop in uninvited, listen and borrow snippets of private discussions for future works. My head was in the game. Clicking-clack my neatly painted finger nails went across the keyboard as they labored tirelessly on the shitty first draft.
The continuous scraping of wrought iron chairs over cement every twenty plus minutes told me there had been at last five sets of customers to have come and gone since I sat down. My tepid berry drink, half finished, was quietly losing its allure. The chapter was finished but I was pondering titles and deep in a ravine of thought when a voice from overhead intruded on my own private Idaho.
“Do you mind if I sit here? All the other tables are occupied,” a forty-something asked. I must have looked visibly taken aback because she apologized for disturbing me. “I’ll look—”
“—It’s okay, have a seat,” I said and went about combing my mind for a chapter title.
“What are you doing?” I felt my concentration slipping taking with it the little patience I have when I am in the well of words. I reminded myself it wasn’t her fault for not understanding a writer’s space and a quietly swallowed my annoyance.
“What do you write?”
I pondered, as I always do, when asked this question.
I write fiction.
I write love stories.
I write of passion and romance but not of ever after.
I write stories
I write non-fiction.
I write of the past, the now, and what I think I know about.
I write of family, of love and loss, of failure and successes.
I write to amuse.
I dabble with blogging.
I write letters to dead poets.
I write poems, although true poets, who have mastered all forms, including Quatrains and the occasional Villanelle, might cringe at my vers libre.
I write for discovery.
I write to entertain.
“I write stories,” seemed the easiest answer.
“What kind of stories?” I gave her question consideration and against the advice of my inner voice, who was shouting at the top of her lungs. Stop talking. NOW. But feeling devil-may-care-ish, I went for it. “All kinds, but today I am writing a story with a romantic twist.”
“Oh, like Harlequin novels.”
And on went the exchange for several minutes. She wanted an exact definition of my writing. I didn’t have one I told her. I write what I write, sometimes this, sometimes and that. Stories, I maintained, with heart and hope. All the while, the little voice in my head saying, you sound like a lunatic, woman, put a sock in it, and get a move on. I don’t know why I resisted my alter ego, she was right, but I didn’t want a label. I am not a one size fits all, writer, I wanted to shout. It wouldn’t have mattered, my guest wasn’t listening. She was determined to help me define myself.
In that moment, egged on by the righteous writer in me, I wanted to explain to the stranger that labels can be deceiving and once attached to one you’re tossed into a bin and will stay there forever more unless you lead the revolution and break free from a definition you didn’t select. I didn’t though, knowing how insane this would sound to a civilian. We volleyed for a while longer before I gave into my inner voice and packed up. I was hoping to slip away before engaging in further banter but I wasn’t fast enough.
“Why do you write?” Even though my inner diva was smoking an unfiltered Camel and swigging Jack Daniels at this point, I responded to her question.
“I don’t know, probably because the little voices in my head would throw a fit if I didn’t give them their day in the sun.” Of course, her look said everything. I’d bet the cost of sugary drink she’ll think twice before sitting down next to a writer the next time she’s at Starbucks.