I was rather dismayed to find yesterday that my friend Brittany (alias: Lee Horne) had written about the very topic I’d considered using as my next blog post. So, despite her beating me to the punch, I’m going to take it on anyway. The subject? Writing in coffee shops.
I’m a major proponent of getting out of the house to write. There’s something romantic and whimsical about the image of the starving artist studiously tapping away in the dim light, serenaded by a single candle flickering on the table beside the white glow of that ubiquitous MacBook apple. All right, maybe you can’t be much of a starving artist if you have a MacBook, but you get my point. There’s something about the atmosphere of a coffee shop that inspires me to get down to business and tap out my dreams.
Of course, there’s also the added pressure of the $5, multi-adjective beverage sitting in front of me to guilt me into working. (A tall, non-fat, sugar-free chai tea latte with one shot of espresso is the cure for writer’s block.) Coffee shops are sort of like gym memberships that way. If I’m going to pay to be there, I’d better get some work done.
As Brittany points out, there are downsides. Coffee shops can provide plenty of distraction if you give them the opportunity. Friends wanting to chat (though I find most of my coffee shop jaunts tend to be solo these days), obnoxious patrons vying for whose cell phone conversation is most important, teenagers lacking a fully-developed sense of discernment, a poor choice of internet radio stations, etc. My personal favorite is the Patron with No Sense of Personal Boundaries. I tend to be pretty private about my work, and I demand a minimum working radius of three feet. PNSPBs have no scruples about butting up against my table (sometimes literally), despite my less-than-amused glares in their general direction.
But even with these distractions and perhaps because of them, coffee shops can be a wealth of inspiration as well. I have countless snippets of conversations and incidents written down in my moleskine notebook for future inclusion in Nobel-prize-winning novels or Oscar-winning screenplays.
So there you have it. Why do I write at coffee shops? For the image, the guilt and the inspiration shrouded in distraction. I’ve done my best writing while sitting in those dimmed lights with that candle flickering amidst the glow of my MacBook in my hobo chic fingerless writing gloves. And that’s how I like it.