My day begins at 5:45 AM. I wake up to the radio playing softly, get dressed, leave the house, and go to my office.
Here’s a picture of my office:
The first thing you might notice is that there’s no time clock. The second is that, yes, it’s a coffee shop. In this jovial little place, I do all the slaving away to produce the books in my series. My current office is called the Java Train. I’ve had other offices. For more than twenty years, I worked at the St. Clair Broiler. A lovely office. My little space there was Booth #4. I also worked for a while at the J&S. Bean Factory. In a pinch, I’ve worked at Starbucks and Caribou and Dunn Brothers. I’ve worked just about everywhere…except at home.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have an office at home. It’s just that I don’t write there. No, that’s not quite accurate. The truth is that I can’t write there. It’s too quiet, for one thing. No kidding, I’ve had this experience: It’s a beautiful winter day. The sun is out, the snow is sparkling, the house is quiet, and I have it all to myself. It would seem the perfect environment for creating a work of art. But what am I doing? I’m sitting there in all that stillness thinking, Hmmmm. Shouldn’t the furnace have come on by now? The point is that when I’m home, I’m thinking about all kinds of things that have nothing to do with writing. The phone rings; I have to answer it. Someone knocks at my door; again, with the answering. I walk through the kitchen, and the dishes in the sink cry out to me to be washed. But in a coffee shop, even drinking coffee isn’t really the point. I’m there to write. It’s how I’ve trained my creative mind to work. A waitress drops a tray of dishes—big deal; it’s not my concern. Two hours can pass in the blink of an eye. Honest to God, it’s like magic.
There’s history to this process. I got serious about wanting to write a novel when my wife was in law school. I was the sole support, the guy who kept a roof over our heads and food on the table. I knew if wanted to write, I had to find a way to work the discipline into every day. At that time, we lived a block from the St. Clair Broiler, which opened for business at 6:00 AM. So every day I got up early enough to be at the Broiler when the doors were unlocked. I wrote for an hour and fifteen minutes. Then I closed my notebook, paid my bill, and was outside at 7:20, just in time to catch a bus that took directly to the campus of the University of Minnesota, where I was employed.
Maybe I’m a little like Pavlov’s dogs now. As I approach the coffee shop each morning, my creative mind kicks in automatically. Everything else fades away. And for a couple of hours, I’m lost in a place that’s absolutely wonderful.