I started writing in all night diners in November 2006, when I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. I did it by showering the night before, setting my clock 45 minutes early, and getting to Bob’s Big Boy by around 5:00 in the morning. That gave me an hour and a half to write before starting work a block away at 6:30 a.m.
Man, I can’t believe it’s been six years since I finished that wild and wooly first draft of Basura Canyon. This is what it looked like on November 27, 2006. A few days early, even!
It was an amazing experience. Good for me to understand the volume I could actually produce. Unfortunately, I haven’t fully reworked it into something I’d be willing to send out to anyone. Sigh.
I continue, however, to drive down to the Valley earlier than I absolutely have to. Better to spend the time writing than sitting in traffic, which is what happens after about 5:30 in the morning. They built something like 12,000 houses between our house and work since we moved out to Acton.
I wrote at Bob’s for probably two years with few exceptions. I’ve also been a regular at Sitton’s No Ho Diner, and have been known to show up at The Coral Cafe, Harry’s, or very occasionally Twain’s. Dupar’s only once. Crazy prices there. These are all all-night diners, because most coffee houses don’t open until 5:30 or 6:00.
Well, now a couple of the Starbucks’ in Burbank open at 4:30 because a lot of film and television crews get a very early start on the day and want to pick up coffee for craft services before dawn. And I go there a lot because I am just too friendly at diners and end up knowing too many of the other regulars and getting distracted by them and involved, and then writing pretty much about being in diners before six a.m.
Which actually…worse things could happen than writing about diners. My dad was a regular at a small town diner, and I feel a little connected with him through our shared love of this experience.
Last week, I started exchanging 1,000 words a week with my sister, Pegerty, at her suggestion. I have been really blocked about creative writing for a while. Still writing, but not much fiction, not much that I feel good about.
In desperation for a thousand words to send to her, I delved into my old notebooks and found a lot of writing about diners. So I reworked a vignette and sent it to her, and bless her, she likes it. I am thinking what I might need to do is fictionalize it considerably to give it a real story line and get serious about a new novel based on this.
Restaurants have been a huge part of my life and it certainly makes me happy to write about them. Also to be in them, especially before dawn.
I treated myself to a trip to Bob’s Big Boy, where the graveyard shift waiter was new, but the two who came on at 6 a.m. were old compadres. It felt like home.