The temptation for writers is to squirrel themselves away in the quietest room they can find. Once the door is closed they either write pell-mell or sit and dream quietly, formulating ideas and occasionally actually getting some words down on paper.

The problem with this is that writers need to experience life and to be a part of it. Too much isolation and your thinking starts to get skewed. That may be why many writers like to find a favourite coffee shop and write there.

If you can treat the comings and goings in a coffee shop as white noise – vague, distant, nothing-to-do-with-me happenings – that seems to be an ideal solution, especially if you find the coffee stimulating and you can  ignore the goodies that go with it. You don’t have to do all your writing there – just once in a while to perk you up.

On a warm day you can write in the park or on the beach. Life goes on around you; kids play, couples smooch or argue, dog walkers toss balls. Again, you can ignore it as you work away. Or you can watch. Some of it is standard human behaviour – a couple of boys will toss a ball, wrestle over it, hit each other and run off, best of friends. Moms hover over little children, mindful of the water’s edge, rambunctious dogs and sunscreen.

Once in a while something different happens. A dog shakes sandy water all over a stranger’s picnic. Harsh words are exchanged, or apologies. You pay attention.  What’s the body language of the picnickers – are they angry, upset, amused? How does it show in the way they react? How does their body move? What are their facial expressions? How does the owner (and the dog) respond to them? Can you tell from the body language what the response is going to be?

This is all part of being a writer. These are the experiences that fuel your knowledge of human behaviour. Without watching and listening your writing will be thinner and poorer.

You might do most of your writing alone but recognize the need to spend some time getting out, watching and listening and being part of your world. You need the world, warts and all, and the world needs you. It needs your perspective and your ideas. And you can’t develop them without the understanding that comes from being part of that world.

See you at the coffee shop?