Cigars and Dry Martinis

My last writing blog ‘Writer’s Block: It’s in Your Head, Isn’t It?’ got me thinking about the writing environment and the perfect setting for creative flow. And so, to:

Cigars and Dry Martinis

Well, I’m not a smoker. Nor am I a heavy drinker, for that matter. But fate (actually, my wife’s career) was such that, last year, I found myself frequenting the beer halls and cafes of Vienna on a fortnightly basis, whiling away the hours. No, I wasn’t being a pretentious XXXXXX, I promise you. Rather, I found myself in the luxurious position of having a few hours a day, to myself, to do what I would. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to finish the first draft of my novel, The Procurement of Souls.

When I was younger, I romanticised the notion of ‘the writer’, metaphorically whisking myself off to some dim-lit Parisian bar, smoking Gauloises and sipping at an aged cognac while penning my memoires. Then I woke up and realised I wasn’t Ernest Hemingway. Far from it. For one thing, he didn’t write speculative fiction; for another, I can’t even grow a proper beard.

Fast-forward X-years though and there I was in 2017, sitting in the corner of a smoky coffee-house (yes, you can still smoke inside, in Austria!) opposite the Wiener Staatsoper, being ogled by an irate waitress who wasn’t amused by my one-coffee-an-hour pace. Nothing for me, thanks, I’m just here for the ambience.

But that really was the point. The hum of chatter from adjacent tables in a language I couldn’t understand; the glow of the low-level lighting; the warmth exuding from the radiator at my side. It was a perfect setting to get my mind in gear. Added to that, the bitter wind that scythed down the arcade outside my window and I was fully cocooned and set to conquer the written word!

But what is it that makes for the best writing environment? Some of us need silence; for others it’s the quality of the light. There’s no right or wrong: it’s just personal preference, I guess. I’m not too fussy, but I find that to achieve my best work, I need the noise level low and a secluded spot. Planes and trains are for making notes and reading: I don’t like people looking over my shoulder. What I do like is a nook, a good strong coffee, and a bit of warmth.

I suppose I’m still a hopeless romantic when it comes to my love of writing. Granted, it wasn’t exactly cigars and dry martinis when I was in Vienna; neither Hemingway nor F. Scott Fitzgerald nodded to me from some hazy recess of the bar. But the setting was right, the environment conducive, and from there, the writing followed…

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