Writing in Cafes

Back over the winter, when I met with a friend of mine who was visiting from LA, I remember him saying something that has stuck with me since then.  It didn’t have an overly deep meaning in it or anything like that.  If anything, it was very casual; both in delivery and context.  He said that he wanted to write something in a cafe; he didn’t know what specifically, he just knew that he wanted to write something, within the setting of brewing coffee and free Wifi.  I forgot what we were discussing that led to him saying that.  Perhaps it was our meeting space within the environment of a Philz Coffee cafe that got to us, or perhaps it was his curiosity over A Moment’s Worth in which had been out in the world for a little over five months then.

Either way, that simple desire of writing in a cafe resonated with me, as I think of a classic image of a lone adult with their money’s worth of a cafe-esque beverage at hand, as they sit hunched over a laptop- or in a more old school light- a notebook or pad of paper, working on their latest literary endeavor.  How many people still do that nowadays?  I see people on laptops all the time when in a Starbucks, but what are they working on?  What I can confirm is that based on my observations, I’m definitely an odd one out when my eyes are trained not on the bright screen of a laptop or smart phone, but on the pages of a spiral notebook where an ongoing blaze of ink appears continuously as I write away with a pen at hand.

What is it with writers working in cafes?  It’s definitely a phenomenon that pre-dates the “coffice” (hybrid between coffee house and office) age we’re in now.  When we think of a case scenario such as that, that mostly associates with the 1920’s greats like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald hard at work in the coffee-friendly city of Paris, France.  Perhaps this sight was temporarily revised in the 1990’s when J.K. Rowling would do the same by working on the first Harry Potter book in various coffee shops that would tolerate spending an afternoon writing there in the city of Edinburgh.  Does this phenomenon still occur now, and not just in the case scenario of this old soul who writes to you now?  Or is it more so reserved when NaNoWriMo comes around?

The Atlantic did an article a few years ago about theories regarding why people- not just writers- like to work at cafes rather than at home or in a more traditional office.  Their theories include the setting providing just enough distraction where you don’t feel like you’re in complete isolation from the rest of the human race; the worry of time is obliterated for the time being; the environment creates for a more casual feel as opposed to being in an environment where work is more heavily enforced; and to create the illusion that you actually are a productive member of society.

These are theories not claims, and what I can attest to is my own experience as one of those writers who crave the experience of writing in a cafe.  Already I’m very much an introvert, so I actually have no problem writing in complete solitude.  At the same time though, I’m also one of those people who can write in a wide variety of environments; in libraries, outside, on a train, and in cafes.  Sometimes it’s for the matter of needing to get out of the house for a different environment; complete with ambient sound and human life happening before my eyes.  For the more caffeine-prone writers, it’s a go-to to get the blood alive, alert, and running.  It also makes for good inspiration, for there was one instance where I came across a Starbucks employee with a very unique name on his name tag.  That name is now the name of one of my main characters in my second novel.

Maybe it will always be a mystery as to what draws writers to finding themselves writing in cafes at some point or another; regardless of whether it may be a chemical reaction in the air that induces the individual to plop down and write for a while, or just a near, dear desire to get some caffeine in the system, just to get the “little gray cells” working.  While all other isolated workers of varying trades today’s age go about their day barely looking up from texting on their phones or scrolling through Facebook on their laptops, magic is happening in those who put on a Hemingway and write away to their heart’s content.

A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 5 reviews so I’m already a quarter of a way to my goal).

Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.

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7 thoughts on “Writing in Cafes

  1. I love writing in cafes and I definitely get more done there than at home. I’m not an introvert, but being with friends in a cafe when we’re all working on our own stuff and not talking is a great feeling. It feels like you’re part of a superproductive team. Love the image you chose for this post!

    • Thanks Draven! I think that’s another thing about cafes; is that even amongst a group of people, it can call for a more productive environment on some scale or another. Just the reassurance of.others around you as you work can go a long way.

  2. I can’t write in cafes – the voices around me interfere with the words I am trying to assemble in my mind, and in any case one of the fastest ways I know to drain all my energy down to nothing is to sit surrounded by people, and there is no chance of recharging until I’m out of that environment. But I know a lot of people thrive on that sort of thing.

    • I guess it’s just one of those things where it varies from individual to individual. If there’s a lot of people at a cafe, then yeah, there’s no way I’d even consider getting any work done there. However, a moderate amount seems to set a sort of tone in a way where it’s not too distracting for me to focus.

  3. I can attest that even when NOT writing, I am far more productive in a cafe than in an office setting. I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusions drawn by the article in The Atlantic: for me, it’s about feeling like I’m not isolated. Also, having just enough distraction when my brain locks up to pull me out of that mode but not distract me further & prevent work from happening. Plus, delicious coffee to fuel my caffeine-powered brain 🙂

    Lately I’ve preferred working at my local library. It’s a new building & very architecturally interesting. There are a lot of great nooks to seclude yourself or open seating in the common areas. It’s easy to get up & relocate as your productivity requires. I love it. Plus they have a coffee shop. Haha.

  4. Pingback: Restaurant Homages to Books | Lola By The Bay

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