Non-fiction, On Writing

Avoid Everyday Mediocrity: On Where We Write

I walked into Starbucks well before noon, to hopefully finish a weeks-long hand-wringing over an essay revision for class. With a belly full of the plaintain-and-beans breakfast from Tortilla Cafe, I impressed myself with my early-ish start after a late night. The revision is due tomorrow. I could head upstairs for the comfy plush couches and whatever light listening is on loop, or I could park my butt on the hard benches, rest my laptop on the wobbly little tables and listen to the whir of babies crying and espresso machines buzzing.  I was feeling particularly wise this morning, and knowing myself, I opted for the wobbly tables and crying babies. If I ventured upstairs, I’d enjoy those faux velvet plush chairs a little too much; the invitation to catnap would be difficult to resist.

Coincidentally, I came across this great find from Brainpickings while on a web browsing “break.” I love the site’s series that features writing advice from famous authors, and they somehow found this gem in the middle of a much meatier work by the early-20th century German literary critic Walter Benjamin. This part seemed to affirm my choice in Starbucks seating:

In your working conditions avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an etude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as a touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.

I hope he’s right. But I’ll need to quit procrastinating and grab another latte to be able to tell for certain.



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