Why do we write in coffee shops?
We come, us collective writers, expending time, probably gas, cash for high-priced drinks. We set up our tools of trade at little tables with uncomfortable chairs. We cringe when other patrons talk too loudly, laugh too loudly, or, god forbid!, talk to us. We peck away at our tablets under the too-dim/too-bright lights in the too-hot/too-cold room. I don’t really think I write better to “Pink Moon.”
Yet here I crouch with my back to the window, sipping at my venti-chai-tea-latte-with-vanilla-soy-extra-hot beverage that cost more than a dozen eggs and a gallon of good milk. It seems requisite to look irritated, even though inside I’m positively gleeful! I’m here, where I simply love to write!
I could be home in my pretty, comfy daylight basement office, with affordable food and drink steps away, my dog curled contentedly in her hammock by my desk. My boyfriend lives steps away from the coffee shop at which I now sit. I could be camped out on his leather sofa, feet up, sipping from the chai he stocks for me. I could be in a library or in a classroom where it’s quiet and the outlets work.
I spy a counterpart across the room, hunched over his own laptop, looking irritated as hell. He must be in heaven. I’d wave to acknowledge our shared penchant, but that would violate the don’t-look-at-or-talk-to-me-because-I’m-a-serious-writer code.
Back in my college recruiting days, traveling a lot, I used to hate working in coffee shops! I was usually in a suit, pouring through resumes of hopeful engineers. I longed to be at home, back at the office, even in a hotel room. I was so clueless. I’m not sure how long after my first short story effort I gleaned the pure joy of the coffee shop, but I’ve been hooked ever since.
Some reasons I come:
I am addicted to store-made chai lattes.
There’s no laundry for me to do at the coffee shop.
I’m not Annie Dillard. At my house in the sticks, I look out the window and see a tree. A beautiful tree, but the same tree I saw yesterday. I don’t have a blackbird and wouldn’t really know what to do with one (thank goodness for Annie). I spark off a variety of people in motion—the way someone walks, laughs, skips up the street. (That known, why I live in the forest of all places can wait for another blog.)
I can steal dialogue for my stories.
Okay, this is just coincidental, but from where I’m sitting I can read my name on a poster for a writing conference I’m teaching at this summer.
But mostly, it’s the ability to make myself slightly uncomfortable and anticipatory, in a position of never knowing who is going to walk through the door next and give me a great character detail or dialogue bite or, every now and then, a good part of a scene. It’s the creative vibe that coffee shops have learned how to manufacture.
And it’s knowing that thousands of my creative kin are on duty in coffee shops across the globe. Carry on, comrades!
xo Laurel Leigh