I’m not just talking caffeine here, the ubiquitous coffeehouse is the perfect tool in any writer’s toolbox. Laptop, notebook, food, place to plug in. Okay … maybe just in my toolbox, but I swear to you I cannot do without. In fact, I just discovered a small Starbucks in Montclair Village, Oakland, CA where I am writing this very blog.
Like choosing your brand or style of coffee, one should be open to all sorts of varieties and variations. Some of you may have cringed when I said I was at a Starbucks: relax and give Starbucks Inc. credit for being wise enough to have wifi. This is a tiny shop here in Montclair and yet it has free web surfing (and no demanding personal questionnaires you have to fill out before getting access.) Actually, most coffeehouses will have wifi now simply because it is essential to the sorts of folks who spend their time and money there. My other choice is the plethora of locally owned independent houses in my neighborhood – I like the idea of supporting local business.
How do I choose? Location, location, location: it must be reachable on foot or have some really neat reason for me to make the journey (I grew up in Montclair Village before moving to Colorado in the 70’s. Good memories here.) The coffee must be good: Peets and Starbucks over cook their beans but make a good Latte. Food options: Coffee really needs to be paired up with some delicious something to nibble on. Noise ratio: I don’t seem to mind loud music or conversations, but people on the phone bug the heck out of me. Go figure. Comfort: I have a small laptop and only a few research materials, so my footprint is minimal. Need a table at a good height, power outlet, decent chair. Availability: ah, here’s a problem. You see, I now live in a college town and I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have to fight with students who treat the business as a spare study hall. Have I got stories to tell about that! Note to students: coffeehouses are a business – buy something every hour or so, it’s only fair. If not, leave a BIG tip.
Oddly, I only chat now and then with folks. I’m happy to do so, but it isn’t why I’m there. Turns out I like being in a crowded room all by myself. I can’t tell you why that is effective for writing but it is.
A little homework for my writing friends out there: try writing that sex scene in a public place. You may be surprised how wonderfully intense and awkward and titillating it will be. All because you are afraid someone is reading over your shoulder.