Monday, June 29, 2020

Pancakes and Inspiration

I've been working my way through Theft By Finding by David Sedaris the past few days, which is a collection of his diary entries from 1977 to 2002. Most of them are very short, and mostly stories and concrete observations rather than expressions or explorations of feelings. Even the most mundane things that he writes down are interesting snippets of a life, with a surprising amount of drugs, violence, and traveling.

He also writes a lot about hanging out at IHOP. At one point, he refers to a story he's working on and having to go over his "IHOP notes" in order to figure out what to do with it next. He clearly finds it to be a place where he likes to think and write. He also shares quite a bit of stories about fellow customers and the staff, whom he gets to know quite well. When he moves to a new city, he writes about the importance of finding another IHOP to hang out at.

There's something about the general concept of artists who hang out at diners or chain restaurants or fast food places to tinker with their work or find inspiration. A lot of creative types may prefer more trendy places like coffeehouses--I admit to having a favorite spot that I'd frequent every Friday morning before it was a bad idea to gather in crowded places.

But I also like the idea of places like IHOP and Taco Bell and Big Boy being hubs of creativity. Places don't have to have an overtly hipster vibe to them in order to find inspiration.

Author and creator Austin Kleon writes about this concept quite a bit. At one point, he shares, "One of my favorite things ever is to sit in a diner with a cup of coffee and a notebook and record whatever comes into my head." At another point, he says, "I rarely work in coffee shops, but I love sitting in diner booths — there’s something about being tucked in on 3 sides that makes me really want to just sit and work."

I've done a fair amount of my writing in Panera over the years. And not just one Panera, there have been several. I've consumed quite a lot of coffee and bowls of soup while working on my books.

When this pandemic is over, I'll make it back to my coffeehouse. But I'd certainly be open to finding a Denny's or even a McDonald's to write in, too. As I say in Coffeehouse Contemplative, you can be inspired anywhere.