Guest post by Ben Schwartz
A bar is a great place to do just about anything. Where things get a little slippery is your choice of bar. And why you choose that specific bar—and what you want, consciously or not, to happen at that bar. The question here, then is not really “Is a bar a good place to write?” but “are you being honest with yourself? Really?”
Bar choice says a lot about a person. Let's say the new guy at work and you are getting chummy. He says, “Hey, let's grab a drink.” You give him the choice. He says, “Oh, how about Applebee's. I love their summer apple chimichanga bombs.” Are you going to go? That's an extreme example with an easy answer—but it helps set the parameters for this discussion.
You have a regular bar, that's a given. Even if you're not there every night, or every week, there is a distinct place, a specific stool even, that appears in your head when you get the thirst. That is your regular bar. I'm sure that bar is a great place—but is that the place to write?
Your writing time is precious, maybe a significant other has to take on a larger burden so you can write, maybe you're giving up time that should be spent on something else, no matter how insignificant. Like earning a living. So you need to take a good hard look at that reflection on your blank laptop screen and ask yourself something: Am I going to write? Or am I going to get drunk?
Either answer is fine. As long as you are being honest with yourself. You can kid yourself that the two can happen in harmony, but you know you're lying. You know. And whoever you told that you were going to bang out another chapter tonight knows. And they're not impressed. Frankly, neither am I. There is a time to get drunk. Many. But that is not the bar you're looking for tonight.
If you go to that magical regular spot of yours, you will inevitably see someone you haven't seen in so long and you can't not say hello. Or turn down a free drink, or not reciprocate several times. And you're correct, it would be rude, and to partake is the correct and moral choice. However, that's not going to reveal who the character in that questionable dream sequence is in chapter three. And, dammit, that's crucial character development. You can't handle that after three good beers. And you shouldn't, but maybe you should get drunk. If that's what you came for.
To really nail down the dying heart of the American dream, or truly capture the love that only the eternal undead feel, you need a different bar. The bar you need is nearly empty. It's far enough from home that when, in a moment of doubt and frustration, you can't just pop out the door and head home. It should be a little bit of a hassle and just a little dingy. What you don't want are pretentious assholes telling you your laptop is a piece of shit. It can't be too dingy. You don't want drunken assholes telling you a bar is for drinking. Don't know anyone. Tip well. Don't sit at the bar, unless it's long and you can squeeze into the corner stool. Sit at a small table, close enough to get served when you're empty and far enough so as not to get involved in bar talk. You should listen to the bar talk, throw a line in to your writing, but don't get involved. Even if you know, and you know you know, the answer to the question they're all arguing about don't jump in. That's their business. You have yours.
Stick to it. By all means, write in a bar. Just make it the right one. And don't get drunk. Or do, just don't pretend you didn't mean to.
Ben Schwartz is the author of The Drift of Things, the silver medal winning novel in the 2014 Piscataqua Press Novel Contest. To learn more about Schwartz, or to purchase The Drift of Things, check out his
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