My closest coffee shop is a Starbucks. And, I admit, I am a coffee shop writer when I can swing it. This particular Starbucks has one long bar counter butted up to a window. There’s a road outside the window, but it doesn’t get a crazy amount of traffic because it’s the drive-through exit. Between the road and the window are tall decorative grasses that are green in the summer and pale out to a flaxen yellow in the summer and fall. They’re short enough to not disturb the view but long enough that I can look out and see the breeze. My favorite seat along this bar is the far end. It’s in a little alcove that has three walls around and one sliver of the window. The other end of the long bar is right next to the drink pick-up counter. People like to sit in the first seat for 3 – 5 minutes and wait for their drinks. If there are a few people waiting, the entrance to the alcove gets blocked. If I can successfully grab my favorite seat, I’m secluded and cut off largely from the rest of the coffee shop. No one pays attention to the person at the end.
Coffee shops have always been a place I love to write. I can get out of my usual surroundings and splurge on a drink. Writing in a coffee shop is extra appealing now that I’m a stay-at-home mom. On some Saturdays, my husband will stay at home with the kids during quiet time and nap time, and I will slip away to write. The hum of the conversations, the smell of the coffee, and my own secluded seat give me an area to focus on what I’m writing and not to-do lists.
I know as a writer coffee shop-writing is a cliche, but I never realized it was also a point of contention with some writers. In his book on writing, John Scalzi points out that the average writer in a coffee shop is writing there to look cool and pretentious. In The Paris Wife, a fictional account from Hemingway’s first wife, Ernest started out despising writers who wrote in cafes because he viewed them as wanting to be conspicuous and artsy, and in essence, weren’t serious about the actual work. While I can understand where these points of view come from, it never resonates with me. I show up to focus because home can be distracting, and I can’t work in libraries (they’re far too quiet). So, when I can, I slink off to Starbucks and hide out in the corner.
What about you? Are you for or against coffee shop writing for yourself? Do you think some writers are there just to be seen? Where are you most comfortable and focused when you write?