The Exhibitionists

I like to write in public. Call me an exhibitionist. It's one of the few physical aspects of writing that makes me feel like a writer. Even if you're overwhelmed by rejections stuffed into the mailbox, you can simply write where there are others.

You are writing. Someone sees you. You are a writer. Voila!

Can you guess which window?

OK, maybe it's not that easy, but there's something about being surrounded by the people and places you're writing about--the movement, the interactions. There are a few coffee shops downtown that are great for writing, though I often prefer fast food restaurant lobbies or parks because of the overexposure at coffee shops. I may like to write in public, but I also like to get work done, which feels somewhat impossible at hipster hotspots. (Don't get me wrong: I love gathering places for artists, musicians, conversationalists, friends, but when we're together, we like to talk about our projects way too much.)

Sometimes you'll find me writing at the wicker tables in front of The Padre's Farmacy, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. The patio faces the somewhat dingy, weekly rate Porterfield Hotel, which happens to have one of the more interesting porches to people watch. If you ever need someone to smoke a cigarette with, you'll find a friend or two who'll share some stories with you on the stoop.

Every time I write outside The Padre, there's a naked man who stands in front of an upper window at the Porterfield. He's become my good luck charm, a part of my writing routine. I'm not sure if he's watching me, but the man is staring out the window at something. 

The first time I saw him, I was with a writer friend who has a great imagination and sense of humor. I (stupidly) asked him what he thought the naked man was doing.

He arched an eyebrow and smiled.


"I think I see an arm moving," he said.

"No way. OK. Maybe, but it's so obvious! He's right up against the window and everyone can see him."

"If there were kids around, I'd definitely call the cops."

My friend went back to his work, but I couldn't stop staring at the window. The man would leave for a few minutes at a time, then return. The room was too dark to tell if there was anything obscene going on, but he had piqued my curiosity.

"Creeper. You're obssessed with him. You like it," my friend accused me.

Maybe I do. As a writer, I'm both an exhibitionist and an observer. I can't help but see. That's what a writer's supposed to do--watch things, record them, find something new and interesting about the commonplace lives we live. Writing requires staring. Lots of it. So I happen to stare at an old naked man...

Thank God the bottom of the window hits mid-waist.


  1. Haha! I like the link between exhibitionist and observer and how the writer is both. It seems odd that I never thought of it in that sense.

    I do wonder about the man, though. Why it happens; and all the other strange things that refuse explanation except within these jumbled thoughts of ours.

  2. This reminds me of FRIENDS, lol. They were obsessed with watching "Ugly Naked Guy" across the street.

    It's disgusting and fascinating all at the same time. One of those things it's hard to not stare at, in my opinion.

  3. How can you NOT look? Your comments remind me of something Susan Sontag wrote about: "My idea of a writer: someone interested in everything." Especially those that refuse explanation...