Writing Prompt: A Writer Walks into a Bar, or Tune into the Noise


I sometimes hear writers say they need a quiet place to write, that they have a peculiar set of criteria which cultivate the perfect writing environment. Truthfully, I’ve been this writer at times, but if our minds are working and we have something to write with, we should be thankful; We should be writing.

A friend of mine asked me once if I’d ever gone to a bar to write, admittedly one of the least serene places to scratch out a few sentences, and I said, “No, I never thought of doing that before.”

Well guess what? I finally got around to trying it, and you’d be surprised how quickly writer’s block disappears after a cosmopolitan and a genuine submission to the crazy, spontaneity of the nightlife.

I’m an insomniac by nature. I work nights, I do most of my creative work at nights, and though I should be sleeping, If I’m already awake, I might as well be productive.

I started this writing session at The Gold Dust Lounge on Powell St. in San Francisco, CA. It’s a cool historical haunt, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Union Square. Here’s what I suggest for this exercise:

  1. Find a place that’s extremely noisy and has a lot of people around. Part of this is for observation purposes. Work with what you see, hear, and smell. Put all of these things into your writing. Be creative. If you’ve been blocked for a while, the strangeness of this exercise will get you out of your comfort zone and hopefully get you writing.
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Use this as a basis for dialogue in your story, with a bit of embellishment of course. A guy started banging on the window outside while I was writing, signaling me to get his girlfriends attention. She obviously heard him and seemed a bit annoyed with him at the time. Pick up on the way people interact in real  life and use it in your story.
  3. Try to capture the mood. What are people talking about? Is it dark in the room? Are people cheerful? etc. You get the picture. Just get out and get writing. I promise, at the very least you will get out into the world and away from your computer screen for a moment.

Things you’ll need:

  1. Something to write on. I prefer a notepad, and you’ll need a pen of course. Laptops may get soaked in alcoholic beverages, and this will make your creative excursion much more costly and frustrating than necessary.
  2. An eye for detail. Pay attention. Listen, beautiful and peculiar things are happening all the time.
  3. A drink. Doesn’t hurt, but don’t take this as an endorsement for the reckless consumption of alcohol. We’re all grown ups here. Just have fun and be safe. Heed Hemingway’s call, “Write drunk; edit sober.” If you’re averse to bars, try a coffee shop, or a train station.
  4. Somewhere to sit. I wrote standing up for the first ten minutes. You can imagine how silly I must have looked.

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