Coffee Shop Writer

 Dear Writers,

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




Filed under Howling at the moon, Notes from the coffee shop

8 responses to “Coffee Shop Writer

  1. Wes, of course I wrote this post in a coffee shop and “Pink Moon” came on while I was typing!

  2. Wes, maybe you should have offered to put a tube down his other orifice. Just sayin’. :o)

  3. Wes Pierce

    Hey, you’re not disrespecting my man Nick Drake and his late classic ‘Pink Moon,’ are you? It’s not enough dude killed himself over poor record sales, we all have to go out and kick dirt on his grave?! (smiley-face emoticon)

    I do agree with you about the work-conducive environment at most cafes, but if one more guy sits down at the table next to me shouting into his cell phone in excruciating detail about his recent colonoscopy, I might just end up on the local police blotter.

  4. Let’s just say that it’s more fun to make up coffee shop titles than it is to do something productive. :o)

  5. Jill, you are just too damn funny. How long and for how many titles did you crack yourself up? Tess of the Coffee Shop, The Old Man and the Coffee Shop, The Mystery of the Old Coffee Shop. It’s sort of addictive!

  6. Hey Ink! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You have a cool site. I laughed at the epic poem posting. I hope you do it! You guys, check out Ink’s ode to Homer–hilarious and commendable.

  7. If Jack London were alive today, do you think he’d write “The Call of the Wild Coffee Shop?” Perhaps Hemingway would write “The Old Man and the Coffee Shop.” Only to be equaled by Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Coffee Shop” or perhaps “Coffee Shop! Coffee Shop!” or even “As I Lay Coffeeshopping.” Then, of course, Melville’s first line of “Moby Coffee Shop” would be “Call me, Barrista!” I could go on, but I’ll save you from my warped wit. I’ve spent the day at Maker Faire, a cross between Burning Man and Silicon Valley High Tech.

  8. I love writing in coffe shops! 🙂 My ‘local’, although being a half hour dive from my house, and being incredibly noisy, is the perfect space for me to write. There just seems to be a certain je ne sais quoi about the bustling environment of coffe shops that is condusive to writing.

Bark back!

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