Some time ago, in a park far, far away, a hipster sat down with a typewriter in a public sphere and someone snapped a picture.
The Internet loved it, ate it up, smirking at the man who went out of his way to show off, “I AM A WRITER.”
But what those amused voyeurs were not told was that a sign had been cropped from the image, reading, “Short stories for a dollar.”
He was writing in a public place for a reason. He was using a typewriter for a reason. Then someone, for a less clear reason, came along and felt a malicious amusement in presenting him in a deliberately poor light.
Now, you may say, “It’s still silly,” and it’s a valid opinion. Personally, I like the idea, and feel he should be admired for his confidence, but I can see how his choice to write like that instead of a more traditional route could be a decision of ego. Maybe he was showing off to some extent. Probably, in fact.
But what his intention was is less of the point. My big question is why did people, the original cropper especially, gain so much joy from the idea that he was “showing off” being a writer?
Anyone who has written for a long time understands why you’d want to work in public, and anyone who has ever written in public knows damn well that you’re not impressing anyone. Are there writers who go to Starbucks with the intention of showing everyone that they write? Sure. But you learn within the first ten minutes that no one really cares what you’re doing, and the only one who will know you’re writing a book is the person who is already obsessed with your business—the person who wants to judge you for it.
There is a massive amount of judgment for the Starbucks writer, so why is it they still keep coming? Why does the Starbucks writer exist if not to tell the world what he is?
- They have a full house.
Whether it’s the incurable plague of children or the in-laws for Christmas, writing in a house full of people is difficult. For one thing, no one thinks you’re doing any actual work. If you don’t have an office to lock yourself in, you will find people asking you to help them left and right. Even if you do hide away in a separate room with more “KEEP OUT” signs than any self-respecting teenager, you’re still going to get those knocks on the door.
When you make your own schedule, people expect you to be on theirs. It’s not always easy to convince people you really mean, “Blood or fuck off.”
- You have taxes or dishes or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The problem of working from home is that there’s a lot of distractions; there’s always something that needs to be done.
Part of the issue is it stresses you out. You can look around and be so overwhelmed with what needs to be done that you lose all creative drive.
What’s worse though is when those distractions are welcome. You don’t need to ask how the writing is going, just look at my house.
Your home has a million interruptions and to-do items that weigh down on you. Getting out where there is nothing else to be done and no one asking for your help is invaluable.
- It’s clean, quiet, and well lit.
This is the part that gets me. When I hear someone, a fellow writer especially, state that they see no reason for someone to work in Starbucks, I have to think, “Really? You can’t even imagine what the appeal would be?”
My house gets this stagnant air. Even when it is clean, there’s just something about it that leads to grimy sensation of hanging out in a shut off room in your house.
Starbucks coffee shops—or the library or public places in general—are pleasant to be in. You don’t have to clean up your own mess of pencils and drafts and soda cans, there are plenty of large windows, and a recycling of fresh air coming in and out with the customers.
- Cabin Fever
Beyond that, even when you do set up a place with a comfy seat and big windows with the curtain drawn, a place you keep clean and is nice and conducive to the writing process, sometimes novelty is key.
I recommend to any writer suffering from writer’s block to try changing it up a little. That may be anywhere from altering the font to writing long-hand to carrying your computer outside—quite the photo-op if you have a desktop.
I have also found that I work better when I have plans to leave the house for the day. Getting up and heading out can be inspiring in itself. If someone is a full time writer (or a stay at home mom), you will feel a compulsion to get the hell out of dodge.
- A small break.
Most writers get their work done in between things. Sometimes it’s a ten-minute break, sometimes it’s an hour-long lunch.
For various reasons, I have been in situations where going home wasn’t an option, but I had an hour or so to kill. Libraries are often closed at five or on Sundays, and trying to find a desk where you can put your computer—I don’t work nearly as well off my lap—is difficult. So what do you do?
You go to Starbucks for an hour, just like anyone with a break and nowhere to go, except you make the best of it.
- The Internet
This may sound contrary to what you’d think, but having access to the web can be an important part of writing. Google tends to be much better at spell check—figuring out what you really meant to say better than Word—plus helps you answer any grammar questions, definitions, or if that phrase really is what you thought it was. It allows you to do research, like looking up baby names, finding out what the effects of metal poisoning looks like, etc.
The Internet can be a huge distraction, to be certain, but when I’m working on an important draft, it is also invaluable.
Many authors are broke and don’t have access to the web at home, so the overpriced coffee really is granting them an hour or so of space and Internet.
So if you are a writer considering going to Starbucks…
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