Why do Writers Write in Coffee Shops?

Thanks to Robin Storey for this article, musing about the writer’s life. Enjoy!

MO

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Since becoming a full-time writer I’ve become a cliché – I love writing in coffee shops. I’ve written in a previous postabout my local library being my favourite office away from home, but coffee shops come in as equal favourite.

IT’S A TRADITION

In my defence, I’m continuing to uphold a fine and noble tradition of writers working in coffee shops and cafes, from TS Elliott, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein and F Scott Fitzgerald to many modern writers. The most famous is J.K. Rowling, who wrote much of her early Harry Potter novels in the Elephant House in Edinburgh.

An urban myth grew up that she wrote there because she couldn’t afford heating in her flat. But she disputed this in a radio interview, saying that walking her baby in her pram to the coffee shop put her to sleep (the baby, not J.K.), which gave her free time to write.

The Elephant House must have a great creative vibe, as Inspector Rebus creator Ian Rankin and The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith have also slaved away there. When I was in Edinburgh a few years ago I visited the Elephant House and had a coffee there. I sat in the back room where JK Rowling had sat overlooking Edinburgh Castle and imagined myself in her shoes, scribbling away madly to get as much done before the baby woke up, wrestling the demons in her mind that told her it was crap and no-one would ever publish it. (I am taking a bit of literary licence here, as I have never heard her admit to the demons, but as most writers experience them, especially with their first novels, I think I’m safe in this assumption). May Lord Voldemort cast a curse on me and torture me with snakes if I’m wrong.

THERE ARE MANY THEORIES

Theories abound as to why writers are attracted to coffee shops. One of the main reasons may be visibility. Psychologists say that for a role to be internalized, it has to be observed in public. As writing is a solitary occupation, maybe we writers feel the need to be acknowledged, that we think we’re not real writers unless people see us writing. Or it could just be pure pretension.

The problem with that observation is that it’s so commonplace these days for all types of business people to sit in coffee shops tapping away on their laptops or tablets that unless you have a sign beside you saying ‘Writer at Work,’ no-one else has a clue what you’re writing.

TIP: Try looking up from your work occasionally, staring pensively into the distance as if invoking the Muse, then resume writing furiously as inspiration has suddenly struck you. This, combined with the occasional sigh or creased brow, will signal to other patrons that you’re not just writing an email to Mum or the annual shareholders’ report, but are engaged in an Important Creative Process.

I don’t have a favourite coffee shop – part of the fun is going to a different one each time. The surrounding buzz and chatter provides just the right amount of background noise for me to be able to focus on my work. The big plus is that there are no distractions, (apart from eavesdropping and people watching, but they are part of a writer’s job description) so I can’t put off my writing by doing the washing or taking a nap on the couch.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

For those who still want that same vibe without leaving home, there’s an app called Coffitivity, that provides background coffee shop noise. But not, of course, the ambience – to a coffee shop purist, it’s like serving them instant coffee and trying to convince them it’s the real thing. Unless the app comes with the aroma of fresh coffee beans (high on my list of favourite things) and a barista who makes a full-bodied heart-starter of a cappuccino, I’m not interested.

IT’S FUN AND PRODUCTIVE

There’s also an element of fun in writing in coffee shops – it doesn’t feel like work. Non-fiction author Malcolm Gladwell of The Tipping Point and Blink Fame, long ago eschewed his office in favour of cafes and restaurants. He’s quoted as saying, ‘Writing seems like a fun activity now… it’s more seamlessly integrated into my life and that’s made it much more pleasurable.’

Many writers, myself included, find our productivity is highest when writing in coffee shops, especially when we’re in creative, first draft mode. Psychologists say that when we’re alone in a public space we have a fear of being seen to have no purpose. So we think it’s not acceptable to sit in a coffee shop alone if we’re not doing something – which explains why non-writers who frequent restaurants and cafes alone usually engage in some activity to look busy – check their phones, read a book or magazine etc. If we’re seen to be doing something purposeful, we can’t be accused of loitering and management are less likely to throw us out – even if we’ve been there for two hours and only had one coffee.

THERE’S A TIME LIMIT

And that brings me to the main disadvantage of writing in coffee shops – limited time. Just how long is it acceptable to sit in a coffee shop on the strength of one coffee? It’s not that I’m mean – I’m not able to drink more than one cup of coffee in the space of a few hours. I make it last as long as I can, but one hour is usually my limit. After that, I feel as if I’m overextending my welcome. It does mean that I get a lot of writing done in that hour, but then I have to get up and go elsewhere – usually the library.

I’ve heard of writers spending all day writing in the one coffee shop. I can only assume they eat their lunch there and drink copious amounts of coffee during the day to keep the management on side. One writer I know of turns up to his favourite coffee shop each morning at 7am when they open and is there until 6pm. That’s true dedication for you. Or caffeine addiction.

THIS NOVEL IS SPONSORED BY MY LOCAL CAFE

At the very least, he’d have to offer the proprietor a free, signed copy of his book upon publication. Unless, of course, the coffee shop was sponsoring his novel. Which, come to think of it, is not a bad idea. In return for the privilege of ensconcing myself all day in my local coffee shop with a constant supply of coffee, delicacies and neck rubs, I’d be more than happy to have inscribed on the cover of my next novel ‘Sponsored by The Raw Bean Cafe’ and even the odd ad inside.

The possibilities are endless.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you think writers in coffee shops should have an arrow pointing at them that says, ‘Pretentious Arty Type?’ Should they be entitled to free coffee in exchange for a certain number of words (eg every 1000 words = one large latte with an extra shot), or failing that, tea and sympathy?

Chime in, writers and non-writers alike.

 

Reblogged from:

http://storey-lines.com/2015/09/14/why-do-writers-love-to-write-in-coffee-shops/

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Declutter Day 10! Progress!

budgerbuilding_clutter

 

It’s day 10 of the Minimalism Game…how’s the decluttering? Hope it’s great! I’m sticking with it. If it doesn’t bring me JOY, it is out of here! 30 things are GONE so far! Woohoo! If you haven’t joined the fun, start where you are. Here are the instructions…

https://smp19671.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/30-day-minimalism-game-come-out-and-play/

Mo

Image courtesy of Ericadhawan.com

If it doesn’t suck, It’s not worth doing

I was so inspired by this article that I had to pass it along. I am sort of a productivity junkie, and if you are too, check out this article by Benjamin P. Hardy!

Mo

If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing

View story at Medium.com

According to psychological research, the anticipation of an event is almost always more emotionally powerful than the event itself.

The dread of asking your boss for a raise is paralyzing and can last months. Yet, once you get yourself to finally do it, it’s over before you know it. The excitementof attaining some object or objective can become obsessive. Yet, shortly after you obtain your desire, you’re bored and in search of something else. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,”says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, Cornell psychologist.

Interestingly, your mind can seduce you so much so that the idea of something becomes more satisfying than the thing itself, so you stop at the idea and never make it real. Thus, in his new book, Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday explains that a primary obstacle to success is the idea of success.

It’s so easy to dream.

It’s easy to tell people about your ambitions. It’s easy to create vision boards and write down your goals. It’s easy to stand in front of a mirror and declare affirmations.

And that’s where most people stop.

The very act of dreaming stops you from achieving your dreams.

You’ve played-it out in your mind with such intoxicating detail that you become satisfied enough. You become numbed. And you deceive yourself into believing you’ve actually done something productive.

Consequently, when you attempt the activity itself, you immediately hit a stone wall of resistance. More often than not, you quickly distract yourself from the discomfort with some form of momentary pleasure. Yet, Robert Greene explains in his book, Mastery, that you can learn to love this internal resistance. In his words, “You find a kind of perverse pleasure in moving past the pain this might bring.”

How To Get Out Of Your Rut

In his book, Living with a SEAL, Jesse Itzler tells the story of being inspired by a certain Navy SEAL and consequently inviting him to live at Itzler’s home for a month. Itzler admitted being in a personal rut and wanted to shake himself out of his routine.

Day 1: “SEAL” asked Itzler, “How many pull-ups can you do?” Itzler squeaked out eight shaky pull-ups.

“Take 30 seconds and do it again,” SEAL said. 30 seconds later, Itzler got on the bar and did six, struggling.

“Take 30 seconds and do it one more time,”SEAL said. 30 seconds later, Itzler got on the bar and did three, at which point his arms were exhausted.

“Alright, we’re not leaving here until you do 100 more,” SEAL stated. Itzler was puzzled. “Alright, we’re gonna be here a long-time. Cause there’s no way I could do 100.” However, Itzler ended-up completing the challenge, doing one pull-up at a time. Thus, SEAL convinced Itzler that he could do way more than he thought he could.

The principle SEAL taught is what he calls the 40% rule — which essentially means people feel maxed-out mentally and physically, and thus stop, when they are at only 40% of their actual capacity. Going past this 40% capacity is when it becomes uncomfortable. Thus, SEAL’s mantra, “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.”

The Power Of Objective-Based Pursuits

“The pain is a kind of challenge your mind presents — will you learn how to focus and move past boredom, or like a child will you succumb to the need for immediate pleasure and distraction?” — Robert Greene

Like Itzler who shattered a mental barrier by completing 100 pull-ups, you too can get out of your rut by pursuing tangible objectives.

The concept is: Do something and don’t stop until it’s complete, no matter how long it takes.

Your goal is to learn how to accomplish hard things without continuously distracting yourself. You want to develop what Greene calls “A perverse pleasure”in experiencing internal conflict, andsitting with it.

This concept is embedded in Crossfit.Unlike most people, who check their smartphones between exercise “sets,” at Crossfit, you have a specific objective and you kill yourself until it’s done.

If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.

You can apply this principle to anything and everything. You can do a homework assignment and just do it until it’s complete. You can write an article and stick-to-it until it’s published. You can do 100 pull-ups, or run 5 miles, and go until you’re done. Who cares how long it takes?

The Greatest Opportunity In History

In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport states the following:

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

Without question, we live in the most distracted time in human history. It is almost impossible to remain focused on a single-task for more than a few minutes at a time.

The law of opposites is in effect. With every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While most of the world is becoming increasingly distracted, a select few are capitalizing on this fact.

Hence, Economist Tyler Cowan has said,“Average is over.” The middle-class is gone. Either you’re among the select few who are thriving, or you’re like most people who are distracted, overweight, and struggling.

The choice is yours.

When something sucks, do you quit? Or do you push-through and eventually enjoy the satisfaction of growth and success?

Anything worth doing is going to suck at the beginning. Anything worth doing is meant to require pain and sacrifice. Herein lies the problem facing America, which originally was built on the moral of impulse control. What once used to be a country filled with people sacrificing momentary pleasure for a better future, the overpowering message of today islive for the moment.

And that’s exactly what people do. They live for this moment. Consequently, when something sucks, or becomes hard, most people quit. Most people indulge themselves in momentary satisfaction at the expense of a better future.

To make matters worse, the twin “truth” of today’s culture is love yourself for who you are. The self-esteem movement of the late 20th century is an enormous contributor to America’s faltering success.

People are taught to love themselves regardless of their performance. Thus, they justify mediocrity. Yet, Asian’s and other immigrant groups who often are considered to have low self-esteemconsistently outperform American’s who have high self-esteem.

Unlike in other parts of the world where hard work is seen as a virtue, the repeated phrase in America is: “Don’t work too hard!” Success these days is to get as much as you can for as little work as possible.

In the book, “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America,” Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld explain that most successful people not only control their impulses, but also have an implicit sense of inferiority.

These people may have confidence, yet, they remain unsure of themselves. They have a chip on their shoulder due to being oppressed in some way. So they continuously push themselves, regardless of how successful they become, to prove themselves. They are never satisfied with what they’ve done. They continue to feel inferior.

These very traits are awarded in today’s economy because they are so rare. Again, few people control their impulses, but instead live for the moment. And few people, especially in America, have any sense of inferiority. Rather, most people have bought into the myth that you must first love yourself before you can become successful.

Garbage.

True confidence is earned. It’s earned by succeeding. Not by wishing for success.

True confidence emerges when you consistently push-through things that suck. The longer you sit with the boredom, pain, and discomfort — and actually create something meaningful, the more confident and successful you will be.

Hence, Ryan Holiday explains in aninterview with Lewis Howes: you are rewarded for the work you actually accomplish. Not the promises you make.

Doing the work is hard.

Getting into elite physical condition is brutal.

Building deep and committed relationships is nearly impossible. Most marriages end in divorce.

Developing deep spiritual maturity requires giving-up who you want to be for who you really are.

All of these things “suck,” at least initially, and in-the-moment. However, if it doesn’t suck, it’s not worth doing. And you absolutely can learn to endure the discomfort of the moment to build a life worth having.

If you’re stuck in a rut, like Itzler, challenge yourself to complete specific objectives — no matter how long they take.

Pleasure Vs. Happiness

“A life that doesn’t include hard-won accomplishment and triumph over obstacles may not be a satisfying one. There is something deeply fulfilling — even thrilling — in doing almost anything difficult extremely well. There is a joy and pride that come from pushing yourself to another level or across a new frontier. A life devoted only to the present — to feeling good in the now — is unlikely to deliver real fulfillment. The present moment by itself it too small, too hollow. We all need a future. Something beyond and greater than our own present gratification, at which to aim or feel we’ve contributed.” — The Triple Package

True happiness — joy — is fundamentally different than momentary pleasure. Not to say momentary pleasure is inherently bad. However, it often gets in the way of something more real and lasting.

Anything worth doing brings a satisfaction that distraction never can. Don’t give into the resistance. Push through the difficulty. That’s where a joy that those who stop will never taste.

Said Geologist James Talmage:

“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it brings no regret, entails no remorse. True happiness is lived over and over again in memory, always with a renewal of the original good; a moment of pleasure may leave a barbed sting, [as] an ever-present source of anguish.”

https://medium.com/the-mission/if-it-doesnt-suck-it-s-not-worth-doing-1efdc6eb695c#.rl27ss14s