Last week I headed into Manchester to do some writing, as I often do on Wednesdays. An hour in a coffee shop to go through my notes and get my ideas in order, and then off to the library for four or five hours of writing, free of the distractions presented by music and the internet.
All pretty routine, with one exception. I was going to a meeting that evening, so I was wearing a suit. The full works: shirt, tie, jacket, trousers, dress shoes. Nothing unusual. I wear a suit for the day job. I felt perfectly at ease.
Until I began updating my swearword list.
You haven't got a swearword list? I started one when I wrote COSMOPOLITAN PREDATORS - a list of the different swearwords used by the inhabitants of Eunomia, the asteroid world where the action takes place. It made sense to me that an international community would have a cosmopolitan collection of swearwords. My swearword list contains the word, its meaning and its language of origin. I found it so useful I've been keeping it updated for the novel I'm currently writing.
It's fun using swearwords from different languages, but not, I discovered, when wearing a suit.
Sitting in a cafe in a shirt and tie, copying down lists of rude words, I suddenly felt a little bit childish. Not just a little bit. I felt like there must be better ways to spend my time. I found that I was turning my laptop so that people couldn't read the screen, that I was checking that no one was watching me.
Thinking about it, this shouldn't have been surprising. My writing has always been affected by my environment. If not, I wouldn't carry a notebook with me in order to capture live emotions. But even so, I didn't realise that environment extended to what I was wearing.
Apparently it does.
So if you find yourself in a coffee shop in Manchester, and you notice a man in a suit blushing as he types away, come over and say hello. Just don't take offence if I close the laptop first.