Why should you pee in a sports bar?

Immersion in everyday life can unleash your creativity

When I say “don’t try this at home” I mean exactly that. My approach to writing lyrics involves spending a lot of time away from home. I am a solitary figure sitting alone in a restaurant between lunch and dinner, either looking out the window and typing measuredly on an iPad or drawing diagrams on the back of napkins.

At least before the pandemic, I always wrote in public places. Now I’m back at it again, albeit a little less frequently.


My favorite places are coffee shops, restaurants and perfect bars that can’t get too crowded; cannot be too stuffy; should attract interesting characters and interlocutors; and it’s preferable to hire waiters who don’t mind me turning one of their tables into my desk.

There is something about immersing yourself in everyday life while writing lyrics that brings ideas and words down to earth. I also find it an inexhaustible source of inspiration and observation.

My writing process is non-linear. A high-level arc of a story (or essay) forms in my mind (the passive voice is deliberately used here, because creativity is not something that comes from me, but something that happens through me), and this high-level arc is usually everything what I have to work with. I’m just starting to write. I don’t worry about details. I let each phrase lead me to the next.

I have learned to never spend too much time sketching because I write in such an iterative way that my sketches are never as big as business plans. As soon as I start doing something, be it a business or a book, everything changes. New opportunities open up. My body is changing. My thinking is changing. I believe this is true for everyone. To quote Heraclitus: “No one steps in the same river twice.” Time continues to flow, and so do we. We are no longer who we were yesterday.

I teach an Introduction to Business course to (mostly) college freshmen.

When my students come to talk to me about business ideas for startups, I usually answer the question of whether I think their presentation is good: “I have no idea.” I get them to take some specific action to move forward, and then bring them back to me to continue the conversation. I usually give them one or two more actions to perform. Every time we communicate, we learn so much that it seems as if the first conversation took place in another universe, in another space and time. Because that’s the way it was.

Action changes everything. This is true for me both as an author and as an entrepreneur. The book proposal I sent to my publisher and the book I actually wrote (wanted) are two completely different things. The finished book hardly looks like the outline of the chapter I submitted, because in the process of writing the book, I realized that there is a much better way.

But I guess I wouldn’t have known that and wouldn’t even have gotten there in the first place if I hadn’t at least tried to draw the path on paper. This might be the best way to write a proposal: at the very least, make sure you and the editor are on the same page, or force yourself to try and formulate what’s in your head to see if you can even begin to be interested in this other person. Once you do that, the journey will take as many turns as Frodo and Sam. A plan/proposal/delivery may be a necessary start, but it’s still just a start.

Okay, back to my weird “pissing in public” quirk. It’s curious. In general, I am a relatively introverted person, but I still feed on other people’s energy for creativity. (Maybe it’s because I don’t necessarily talk to or interact with them. I just absorb things. Maybe that’s why, as David Foster Wallace pointed out, every true writer is a little crazy at heart. How else to observe reality while maintaining a sort of spiritual distance from her… other than observing reality without fully engaging with the reality of others, what would kill the ability to write about it at the moment?)

I do find that public space is better for certain kinds of writing – not necessarily everything.

This works best when I’m either looking at a blank page or when I have nothing to do but ruthless edits. All things in between often take place in a more traditional setting (I do have a home office). But I don’t know what I would do if I had to write all the time within these four walls without going free.


While I was writing Wanting, there was a sports bar across the street from my house that I went to weekly. I wrote in the far corner, watching people interact. (This is what prompted the idea of ​​the “mimetic martini” described in the introduction – as soon as one person in a bar orders something, whosomeone else inevitably does it. I doubt I would ever have a real life example if I sat in my office writing for a year.)