No doubt, as writers, we all have our favourite- often special- spot to write in. It may be a spare room, a shed, a conservatory, a summer house or indeed the worktop in a kitchen. It may be somewhere that is out of bounds to other members of the family who are under strict instructions not to disturb unless someone needs taking to the hospital, and then it had better be a good reason, as drafting up the inciting incident in your character’s arc does not respond well to interruptions.
Writing in public spaces or spots other than our usual haven can be refreshing and inspiring, can aid writers block or just the simple act of a change of scenery can create a different perspective in our approach to writing or even our approach to a particular character.
Quite frankly, I am a sun seeker, so can occasionally be found chasing the sun via three different rooms by the end of one day. But I do have my own faithful room to write in- not specially kitted out for that function, but special all the same.
However, I have always liked the idea of writing in amongst the throngs of life- such as a coffee shop or a café. There’s a romance attached to the whole affair, left over from history in the way people treated the literary pubs all over Britain and the rest of Europe, and how they have facilitated in shaping thought; Dylan’s favourite pubs haunts in Wales, the literary pubs in Ireland, the English coffee houses, the cafes in Paris and all across Europe, springing up outside of the Ottoman Empire from the seventeenth century onwards.
And the culture of coming together under one roof and sharing refreshments is not restricted to what is documented Western civilisation history books; The Timbuktu Empire or The Ming Dynasty to take two, had their teahouses and coffee houses, with their own cultured drinking styles, full of political and philosophical debate, perhaps with plans to overthrow or revolutionise.
Not much has changed with drinking houses of the past and present; consuming, talking, reading, writing, and exchanging news and ideas, is pretty much a coffee shop and cafe’s raison d’etre.
So I love what they represent and I have no doubt, that this is where some deals are agreed, contracts are signed, huge ideas are born and projects are finished.
However, I struggle to do any serious writing in a cafe. Though I must confess, there is another reason which must impact on any enjoyment for me: I don’t drink tea or coffee, so don’t get the excitement many people get from sitting down and supping tea or coffee like a connoisseur. The other reason it doesn’t work for me is because the space does not help me to be highly productive. There is just too much going on. The buzz is great, but it can be the problem.
Let me explain. I feel that the mind becomes too active and the writer’s roving eye becomes attentive to everything, responding in a reflex action. We become people watchers, so we absorb café traffic and overspill conversations; hard to tune out of, especially when someone wants to inform the entire coffee shop of their news that they are now a millionaire (I find myself intrigued by why someone would want to openly announce that). Noise and sounds wax and wane, ebb and flow. Shoppers talk about recent purchases, relationships or both, all happening against a backdrop of lighting and décor, eager to create an ambiance, suceeding in creating a very lovely, richly stimulating environment, which somehow cancels everything out, including my thoughts. I find that my total output of work is about thirty to fifty percent down when I try to write in a coffee shop or café.
So, I found this article resonated with me:
For me, if I really want to do some serious writing, and I’m not at home and am on the move, I’ll search out a library, some of the fabulous reading rooms dotted around the UK or if the weather is very good (ha!), an outdoor spot. But you may have a different view and find cafés an ideal spot for writing.
Would love your thoughts.