The Outdoor Distractions And The Indoor Writer

by Chris Illuminati
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The writing life attracts two distinct types — those born with a gift and those with no other career choice. In the middle of that Venn diagram fall the faces of writing’s Mt. Rushmore – talented, destructive in one way or the other, unable to hold any other job and stupid and stubborn for even trying.

The idea of the nomadic writer, setting up a makeshift office wherever the story leads is ridiculously cliche. Almost every profession can set up shop wherever there’s decent WiFi and buckets of coffee close at hand. But one of the perks of being paid for the pen is it affords a life of mobility. It doesn’t pay enough to live most places but it allows an author to work from everywhere.

Hang around the action and the stories will find the writer, floating in the thin air to be plucked and planted on a page to bloom right before the eyes of the reader. From Memorial until Labor Day, there’s no better location to observe and report than along the New Jersey coastline. The comedies, melodramas and one-man-shows playing out in the sand and seaside bars as abundant as the day trippers in line for a daily beach badge.

Early in the summer season, before schools let out and office grunts realize they’ve got vacation days to burn before the end of the year, I hit the beach with a notebook in hand to vomit out the first few pages of the next great novel that your mom is going to force you to read. The one everyone is raving about in her Yoga For Silver Foxes class.

For years, I’ve tried to make any and every New Jersey beach my writing nook. It’s damn impossible. I’ve spent hours and months scribbling notes about random beach bums and Bennies, only to come up empty with anything other than observations about things no one would believe unless they could see. I’ve got four pages dedicated to a man with the most “outie” belly button imaginable. It looked just like a dick. His application of sunblock was near pornographic.

Another distraction, at least to this writer, is all of the reading going on. All those SPF and sausage sandwich stained hands wrapped around the best sellers they’ve been saving all winter to read on vacation piss me off. As an author, I’m glad the public still consumes novels and non-fiction in paper form. As an often struggling essayist, I’m bitter that the name on the cover isn’t mine.

Seven summers ago I finally found some success writing at the beach. I wasn’t technically on the beach, however, but instead holed up in a house mere blocks from the sand and surf. In one week, on an insane deadline from a publisher, I banged out 40,000 words and my first published book. During that week I made every attempt to get some pages completed while sitting in a beach chair surrounded by people taking it easy. Each experiment was futile for there’s always a volleyball game in need of another player, a cold beer in need of chugging before it gets skunked or a young woman who’s brand new bikini demands every set of eyeballs take notice.

Writing on, near or close enough to smell the beach brings too much stress to this freelancer-for-hire. I’d much rather stare at the photos of my favorite authors, portable typewriter at arm’s length, pounding away in front of sand and surf while I’m working inside my air-conditioned home office.

The distractions are minimal.

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