Mini Experiment: Eavesdropping in Cafes

I’ve been hearing quite a bit recently about a technique to help writers improve their ear for dialogue and gather a plethora of shiny new ideas for stories at the same time: eavesdrop on private conversations in public places.

Now, the first thing I want to make clear to you is that this whole idea goes against all my natural instincts. When I’m alone in a public place, I would prefer not to be able to hear other people at all. If there was such a thing as a portable cone of silence, it would be tucked away in my handbag right now. My usual first move when entering a cafe is to look for the table that is as far from the nearest actual human beings as possible. I don’t want my valuable coffee-drinking/reading/ writing/Twittering time interrupted by random bursts of conversation that have nothing to do with me.

However, never let it be said that I am not willing to suffer for my art. And therefore, I embarked upon another Writing Mini-Experiment this week, with the aim of visiting two cafes, listening to as many random conversations as possible and scribbling any interesting bits down. Here are my results.

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Mini Experiment: Early Morning Writing

I am a morning person. I always have been. This doesn’t mean that I leap out of bed with a cry of gladness at the sound of the alarm. Far from it.  But once I’m up, I’m up. And I am more productive in the morning, no doubt about it. My brain works faster and I’m more motivated to get things done. And yet, despite knowing all of this, I have never tried writing when I first get up. Never. Until this week.

It started like this: I noticed the hashtag #5amWritersClub appearing now and again on my Twitter feed. My first reaction was a natural one: “5 am? They have to be kidding.” But it began to intrigue me. Perhaps I could give this a try.

The advantages were obvious:

  1. I would be the only one awake in the house, meaning it would be quiet. And quiet is my favourite soundtrack when I’m writing.
  2. It would be dark outside. No distractions outside the window.
  3. No other chores would be calling to me. Nice.
  4. I could be finished by 7 am and still have the whole day in front of me. Even better.

Unfortunately, the possible disadvantages were just as obvious:

  1. It’s winter here in Australia. 5 am is a cold, dark, unfriendly sort of time. I’m not sure we’d get on with each other.
  2. I’d have to go to bed by 9pm at the latest in order to get enough sleep. I don’t know if I could discipline myself to do that. Even if I did, it would probably take me hours to fall asleep, rendering the whole effort pointless.
  3. Could I write anything good at 5am? Could I even think? Morning person, yes, but still…
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