I had an interesting experience writing today. After lunch, we went to a café that was basically the bottom level of a church. We pass by the building(s) all the time but I'd never actually stopped there before, though the café is very highly rated.
I was pretty awestruck by the size of the place first. It seems there's multiple buildings and it was very reminiscent of a college. They even referred to themselves as a "campus"! Once we parked and walked in, I had to stop and admire the architecture of the building housing the café. It's beautiful. Outside, there's a pretty fountain and they put rocking chairs in front of it. Kind of like a modern beach! The outside space was too full for us to try it, but it seems like a wonderful spot to sit and read for a while.
Inside, we ordered coffee before sitting down at a table. The coffee was extremely cheap compared to Starbucks or other cafés. You could say that they made up for the couple of dollars off with some religious small talk, but I didn't really mind that part. I'm fascinated by religion as a whole and I try to keep an open mind about it, so as long as people are respectful. And aren't obviously out to recruit me into a cult. Anyway, I like to discuss religion and learn more about it in general. I ended up being given a pamphlet about the church and I might just stop by for one of their informational sessions one of these days.
As an aside, lately I've felt kind of a spiritual void in my life. I'd tried to go all in on tarot and things in that vein of occult spirituality, but while I enjoy the practice, I couldn't really jive with the faith. I'm not sure if I can really accept God into my life, but I'm not sure lately that the trappings of Buddhism really suit me anymore, either. Is this a selfish way to think about religion? I'm always questioning things, always so eager to label myself. Perhaps I just need to take a step back and accept that I'm "spiritual" without necessarily having to adhere to any one religion. When the barista asked me how I would best describe my faith currently, I said "agnostic" and that's probably the best fit.
Anyway! We settled in and I got a bunch of writing done. I love the atmosphere of the place and its beautiful architecture and huge amount of space.
They even have an indoor treehouse structure, complete with a rope bridge and everything! That was fun to explore. I'll definitely come back here. I enjoy the community aspect of it and everyone, even the random patrons milling about, seemed so nice and friendly.
I did my part to support independent bookstores today by picking up a book called The Writer's Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Michael Noll. I love how the book is organized and I'm already feeling pumped just reading the introduction. There's a passage that particularly resonated with me:
I once heard an editor for a literary journal remark that when she reads queries that mention how the submitters' favorite writers are James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, she knows the manuscripts won't make the cut. Writing good contemporary fiction means engaging with the contemporary world. That means reading books published today, not fifty or two hundred or even twenty years ago.
Perhaps this seems like an obvious sentiment, but I've never thought about writing/reading in this way before. I often say that William Faulkner is my favorite author or that I want to emulate his writing style, but times have moved on. Plenty of people as it is don't like reading Faulkner—why would I attempt to alienate an entire audience through idol worship? It's kind of changed the whole way I want to engage with fiction now. Until pretty recently, I didn't read a lot of contemporary fiction. I was firmly stuck in an American Modernist point of view. But my writing has already improved so much since I started reading stuff published this decade. I want to be even more mindful of that, moving forward.
I finished my day out with a nice can of pineapple cider at dinner tonight. This was recommended to me by a barkeeper at the Alamo Drafthouse. He noticed that I always get the regular Austin Eastciders and said that this one pretty much just tastes like juice. He was not wrong! 13g of sugar will do that to a drink.
All in all, a lovely day. I want to read more and consume more and grow more. I'm not content with where I am just yet. And that's just how it should be.