Where We Write

Why do so many writers go to coffee houses to do their work? It’s become a bit of a trope, sitting there for a couple hours with a laptop, earbuds, and a long empty mug. I can easily answer my own question, because I am one of those writers. When I feel the urge to write, I pack up my laptop, trek over to the nearest shop, stake out a table, order a three dollar latte, and suddenly I can start.

Going home for the holiday reminded me just how much, as a writer, I rely on coffee shops. I cannot write at home. No matter which room I set up in, no matter what hot, cozy drink I warm my hands with, I can’t generate. Maybe it’s the white walls in our living room or the sad look on my dog’s face because I’m not playing with him. Usually, I end up at the town’s popular coffee spot. Only this time, it was so busy I couldn’t find a place to sit, let alone stand. Overwhelmed, I got my coffee to go and headed home, disappointed. Even with the caffeine, the only writing I could do was revision of a critical paper. It was clear: the atmosphere was more important than a caffeinated brain.

It isn’t surprising that location and vibe play a large role in writing. Many  find inspiration amidst travel, when they encounter things that are new and interesting to them. Other writers can only work in the morning, some at night. Some can only work at their desktop while loud music plays over the speakers to drown out the white noise. My perfect writing location is a café with faint acoustic or jazz in the background, an excess of natural light, and warm coffee. Ideally, a crackling fireplace.

What about you? Do you have a specific atmosphere that you need to be in to write?

One Reply to “Where We Write”

  1. I’ve also been thinking about this question recently! I keep thinking back to Sara’s reading and how when asked a similar question, she spoke about how she found herself most productive in a moving vehicle of some kind. I feel like I can relate to this in a way–even when I’m the one driving, I notice myself noticing things and thinking about them in new ways.

    In general though, I would say that I’m with you in that a coffee shop is typically my most-visited (and effective) writing environment. I wonder if there is some connection between these two: even with the same route in a car, or the same coffee shop, there can be novel things going on in your periphery–perhaps just the right balance of routine and newness that your mind is able to find itself on tangents. Perhaps our own homes are too routine for our minds to kick off.

    In short, who could say? I’m not entirely sure, and perhaps the reasons could be different for everyone.

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