Saturday, January 15

Panera's Life Lessons

Writing My Memoir at Panera Bread Co.

I went to Panera today to grab some food and work on my memoir. In part due to having just finished "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Ruben, I was in an extremely good mood during my time at Panera. I was also very aware of my surroundings.

Many writers believe that locking oneself in a windowless space for hours on end is the best way to force words onto a page. Marcel Proust, whose infinitely long A la récherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time)  is considered by many as the best literary work of the twentieth century, spent much of his life writing "from midnight to dawn in a cork-lined room", completely isolated from the world.

While I admire Proust's work, having read it in both French and English several times, the man himself was a little cooky, and I'd like to maintain semi-normal social habits even if my passion does promote loneliness.

I was therefore thrilled to learn that many writers, including JK Rowling,  believe that working from cafés, where one can eat, drink coffee, and be in public, is the best place to write. This approach seems much more attractive to me, and has even lead me to discover at least one new café in my area (with help from the Yelp application on my iPhone, of course).

Learning About Negativity at Panera Bread Co.

The last chapter of Ruban's memoir discusses eliminating negative comments and criticisms when we talk with other people. Her book offers a substantial amount of research on how much these gossipy comments affect one's attitude.

Consequentially, I spent much of my time at Panera this morning observing others. I even opened a separate Word document to type my observations. This served to (a) help me to realize how often I become distracted, and (b) to become more aware of my surroundings.

My conclusion? The main conversation topic amongst lunch-goers and coffee-drinkers was gossip about other people. The second most popular subject-- how difficult of a week they had or how tired they were. I was stunned to see how much negativity existed around me.

After a couple of successful hours of writing, I packed up my things to go home. On my way out the door I followed a couple, both of which were probably around my age. The girl was wearing a sweatshirt, sweat pants, and Uggs. Her bottled blonde ironed straight hair was pulled into a messy ponytail and was decorated with a sparkly headband.

To put it diplomatically, this is one of my least favorite styles, but because of my good mood I actually succeeded in not labeling her or casting a judgment about her based on her look. In fact, other than taking note of her in my subconscious, I didn't really think twice about her.

The boy held the door open for me as he listened to his girlfriend complain about something on Facebook. I quietly thanked him, and his girlfriend proceeded with their conversation, making the following statement:

"I guess that's how ugly people find dates now, with Facebook."

I was shocked. Even without any context as to what she was talking about, I found her comment to be negative, rude, and highly inappropriate-- especially in public. 

I fought every cell in my body to not say something to her. As I climbed into my car, I thought of about a million comments I could have made, like "Excuse me, but would you take one look at your outfit before making that statement", or "So I'm guessing that's what you did, too"; but I ultimately decided to keep my comments to myself and write a blog about it when I got home.

My question to you: Have you ever stopped to think about your own negative comments? I'm definitely going to try to do so this coming week.

Article referenced: Where Are the Best Places to Write from

1 comment:

  1. Courtney,

    Thoughtful, beautifully written and so true! As a wise teacher once said. It is so much easier to be negative than positive. Being positive takes a lot of work. To smile requires many more muscles than to frown. I know that every time I start a negative comments will come back to your blog and hopefully I will stop myself! You got into my head, Girl!