Today, I had a coupon for an oil change at one particular place, but as they were being difficult to schedule, I spent $5 more to hit the Monroe I normally go to. I was perfectly fine with that, as it’s closer to my local Starbucks.
Mind you, hands down, I prefer and go out of my way to patronize local coffee shops and small businesses. (Hello, Sturbridge Coffee Roasters!) That said, there is a lot of good to be said about Starbucks – particularly my local one, which has excellent customer service and baristas who know my name.
But, back to my oil change and why that inspired my #WriterWednesday post…
I have yet to get an oil change anywhere that is done in the 15-20 minutes they promise. That’s why I prefer the one by Starbucks; I pack my computer and I know I can get work done in a fairly comfortable setting with readily available caffeine and at least semi-healthy snacks – depending on my resistance level to not-in-the-least-bit-healthy for you snacks. (Salted caramel fudge block and s’mores squares, I’m looking at you!)
When I’ve interviewed writers for my non-fiction articles, or when I get interviewed as a writer, there is almost always a question about rituals and what one does to “get in the zone” to write. I laugh at that. My requirements: somewhere to sit semi-comfortably and either a functioning machine with a word-processing program or just plain paper with pen or pencil.
And that’s all you should need, too.
Life is hectic. Writing time needs to be fought for and protected fiercely. That’s why writers should get into the habit of writing anywhere, anytime. Always have pen and paper, and whenever possible, bring a netbook, tablet, or something like that (because it’s way easier to transfer work via email or thumbdrive than actual transcription, IMHO).
Now, when it comes to coffee shops in particular, if you haven’t ever explored that old cliché of a writer in a coffeehouse, you’re missing out.
(There’s also the cliché of writers in bars; I have tried it with varying success. But that will be another post.)
The coffee-shop-as-office is becoming a ubiquitous trend. I see people with their laptops all the time – and not just writers. There’s a unique vibe to the indie and Starbucks-esque coffee shops that I haven’t found elsewhere. These havens work as both a place to be alone in a crowd or part of a community – sometimes both in the same visit.
When someone’s looking at their computer intently, usually, they don’t get bothered. (Usually: YMMV). But if you’re stuck and looking around, sometimes you’ll meet eyes with someone and strike up a short conversation. Or, someone you know might be eating, relaxing, reading,.. or staring into space rather than their computer screen (especially if you frequent this spot a lot). Sometimes just that brief conversation will reinvigorate you about your topic; sometimes that person might have useful information for you.
Today, for example, I was pushing through email when two local police officers walked in and were chatting at the table next to me. My current short WIP includes some things that police officers would be uniquely qualified to advise me on. I kept smiling and trying to catch their eye during lulls in conversation, and finally, one of them addressed me.
With a shy smile, I started, “This is really weird, but I’m a writer and I’m working on a piece that I want to get right in how the police might handle a situation…”
“What do you write?”
“Science fiction, fantasy…”
“My favorites! What do you need…?”
I asked about a particular plot point, got useful information, and we bid each other good days. It was great!
In my coffee shop office hours, I’ve met pastors, teachers, lawyers, other police officers, mechanics, and all sorts of folk from whom I’ve had the pleasure of learning. I’ve ended up getting speaking and book signing gigs based on our conversations. At the very least, my writing time has included delicious beverages and food.
Most importantly, having “office hours,” even if they’re at someplace public, in and of itself, can be a tool to help productivity. A change of environment, the white noise of conversation, the general “coffee shop” style music can push your brain out of a stuck mode. Or, if you are set on having rituals and practices to help you write, setting aside a place and limited time might be just enough to get you started.
Have you tried coffee shop office hours? How did it work for you?