Friday, August 16, 2013

Coffee Shops: A Writer's Studio

Writers have been taking their pens, notepads, typewriters, and computers to coffee shops to work on their stories for years. In fact, some of the most famous novels and literary moments of all time were inspired and written in cafes. For example:
J.K. Rowling sat writing Harry Potter in the back room of the elephant house
in Edinburgh, Scotland

La Rontonde in Paris hosted authors like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
and T.S. Eliot


 I guess I'm in good company because I often leave the distractions of home, pack up my laptop, and drive into town to work on my day's writing.
Why do I find inspiration in a coffee shop?
Maybe I'm enthused by the energy of other writers. Maybe there's nothing else to do but write until my large cup of coffee is finished. Maybe the scents of cinnamon scones and a nutty Arabic dark blend stimulates creative power. Maybe its because they bake better blueberry muffins than me...  
...and maybe there are similarities between writing a novel and ordering a cup of coffee. They have both become more complex in the 21st century. Just like tall, dark, and handsome is considered cliche when describing a male character, coffee with only cream and sugar is on the dull side. Look at some of the choices I have at one of my favorite writing studios, Coffee Traders in Saratoga Springs, NY.       
Once you select the kind of coffee to add ambiance to your writing session, you must decide what to put in it:

Choosing your coffee du jour is just as difficult as choosing how to describe that handsome man in your story. Should he be a musician with a crooked smile, shoulder-length black silky hair, and electric blue eyes; a baseball player with tousled sandy brown hair, a lanky physique, and mocha eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses; a polished red-headed businessman with an Irish brogue whose wild eyes scream to escape from the confines of his three-piece suit. I guess I'll have to head to my favorite cafe and see who emerges on the page.
"My ideal writing space is a large cafe with a small corner table near a window overlooking an interesting street."—J. K. Rowling 
Where do you go when you want a different milieu to write, work, read, etc.?   
The You Code by Judi James  & James Moore delineates what coffee choices say about your personality (among other unique personality indicators). A great tool for matching coffee and characters. Examples are:
The espresso drinker - "The unfiltered cigarette of the coffee drinking world." Espresso drinkers tend to be moody, hard-bitten, and hard working.
The black coffee drinker - This type is all about minimalism and take a no-frills, direct approach to life.
The latte drinker - Typically metrosexuals or cuddly-toy collectors, latte drinkers are pleasers with an overwhelming compulsion to be liked.
A Fun Book!
Another joy along the novel journey! 


  1. Interesting piece, Peggy. I'm different from you and JKR. I don't concentrate well enough in coffee shops and public places to handle the nitty-gritty aspects of writing. In my home-office I'll work quite happily in the sloppiest (sometimes minimal) state of dress, rest my eyes by gazing through the window at the honey-eaters, parrots and magpies in my garden, stretch and sing loudly to clear cobwebs from my mind ...

  2. I've never written in a coffee shop since I'm a night owl writer who is only creative when the moon comes out--and Starbucks inside our huge Barnes & Noble store is closed. I like to write in complete silence, putting down the things I've seen or experienced during the day. I did take my book to work with me and worked on it during slow times. One can do that when she works for her daughter, who also helped. :) Now with all the promo to tend too, I haven't written anything new in months, maybe a year. Great post--love the pics!!

  3. Hi Peggy, I really enjoyed this. I run away to my deck sometimes, surrounded by oleander and crepe myrtles, but once the Texas sun comes up it is time to move back into my beautiful office! Maybe one day I will get the nerve to go somewhere else just to see what it is like. Like Stephen, though, I believe I would be too easily distracted by the hubbub that goes on around me. Thanks for the photos, that made the article even more interesting! Have a blessed day! Deirdre

  4. I love this blog post, Peggy! I too have tried to write in coffee shops several times before. A couple of these tries it works, but mostly I was too distracted by discussions around me and/or it was just too loud. Besides I found out that mostly their coffee is just over expensive. *chuckle* I can make a great cup of coffee at home too.

  5. Lovely blog. I write in Kings Cross Station, where I can see the hoards of fans in line to be photographed on 'Platform Nine and Three Quarters'. A tangible reminder of what can happen when a writer persists and persists...