Writers & Coffee Shops

by dantewilde

You can almost taste it, no smell is as palpable as the rich aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. Within it’s warm arms the temptation of freshly baked cakes beckons you like a seductive lover. A small drip of salvia gathers around the corners of your lips, and slowly, very slowly, your eyes glaze over. Your senses intoxicated by temptation. You think of your favourite Oscar Wilde quote “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it…I can resist everything but temptation.” The quote resonates in the last gaps of your mind that slowly permeate with a growing desire for velvety luxury. You think to yourself: Oscar Wilde was great, and even he fell victim to temptation. Just one. Just one taste, it’ll take a moment. Your body leans forward, away from your table, away from the plush chair that embraced you so warmly, you almost swore it was as if you were a child in the arms of your mother. Before you know it, you are beginning stand, in a half crouch you slowly stretch to your full height and the back and shoulder pain cease. You are not old. You are a writer. And. You are in love.

Then it’s shattered.

Ripped away from beneath you.

By the horrendous grinding of the machines, the insolent pounding of steel on steel, the ever irritating sound of the hot water injection. All of it, ripped away, obliterated. Your fantasy, your luxury doesn’t even linger on your tongue, in an instant, it is obsolete. The  lover with tender kisses and an unforgettable musk vanishes into the darkness of the streets. You are sitting again. Back in your chair. It’s not soft like you remembered. Yet only a second ago, you would have sworn it was. You are not in love. You are not dreaming. No, you are awake.

You are a writer.

In a coffee shop.

Depressed and uninspired.

Broke.

With the ineffable allure of a new drug, sensation, experience or tempting pleasure. Coffee shops all over the world have beckoned to passersby. And of all those passersby, hundreds, if not thousands, indulge me, perhaps even more, many more, have been writer’s.  Writer’s with a new idea growing slowly in their minds or the first drafts of a manuscript clutched against their chest, or their ever faithful laptop rubbing slowly against their thighs in it’s satchel.

Writing in a coffee shop is something I’ve tried, many times in fact. And with each time I’ve found only the same result, any beginnings of thought, that have managed to force themselves through my bitter frustrations at the non existent vegan menu, are annihilated by the insolent sounds of barristers. No, this isn’t a misguided venting of my writer frustrations towards barristers – or any coffee shop patron for that matter- it is two questions: How do you write at coffee shops? And, why do you write at coffee shops? (Neither of those are rhetorical, if you were mildly (or ravenously) tempted to answer either or both of those questions.).

I’ll admit, there is a certain romanticism to writing in coffee shops. And while I’ve found that the people that go there, can be interesting, I feel that comes down to my penchant for people watching, not for writing.  As cliched and unimaginative as it is, I’ve also found that any story that sees it’s beginnings (which admittedly is not a lot) is inspired by and in a sense, trapped by the confines of a coffee shop. Locations, characters, personalities and environments right down to the smell of the air, and the texture of the floor is an amalgamation of all the coffee shops I’ve entered and attempted this exercise at (even the ones where I haven’t tried it). The reason I mention this,  is no matter where I write, save my former example, I am not hindered or limited or even inspired by the location and the people in it. This either comes from two things;

1) Being endlessly inspired and deeply besotted by my genre

Or

2) Finding the majority of the human race rather uninteresting and unimportant.

(Yes, I said I people watch, but not that it constantly evoked uncontrollable urges of excitement).

I certainly hope it’s the former.

Nevertheless, there are days where I feel as though I am compelled to write at a coffee shop. Not only to write, but to produce my master work (which, will perhaps be an academic paper on the relationship between patrons and barristers.), the first draft, then the second, then third, then the-for-print manuscript while only half aware of the mounting mugs of hot chocolate, lattes, mochas and short blacks piling up around me. Before running like Charlie Bucket to the nearest publishers and, out of breath but excited, climbing into bed with the old boy’s of the industry. This compulsion, to close my laptop, then walk to nearest coffee shop to finish this article, is the equivalent to Robert Langdon solving the Da Vinci Code. At the end of it, what’s inside doesn’t matter half as much as conquering what is you set out to do – and it would make a terrific story for the grand-kids. In fact, a master work at a coffee shop could rival the Da Vinci Code (of course, this master work would have to rival Plato and Hemingway, but you get the picture).

A personal vendetta to pay coffee shops back for the amount of ideas they’ve destroyed, and the amount of transaction fees the bank has accumulated while I’ve tried to drown my sorrows in what is mostly, average coffee. Is essentially what this compulsion boils (don’t mind the pun) down to. Because the single most antagonising sound at a coffee shop, really is the only antagonising sound – the sound of coffee being pounded as if its a baby chick on it’s way to being chicken nuggets.

Each artist has their own ‘headspace’ for creating. Although I think you’re insane, if the sound of steel on steel and injections of hot water, are the chaotic symphony you need to reach the point of creative-no- return, I can respect that. For me, the answer lies in music. As I sit here and write this I’m listening to an exceptionally well crafted electronic rock/dubstep/ metal hybrid (you probably think I’m equally or more insane). The exclusion of the outside noise helps me focus on my ideas and the words, then the music provides a (sometimes less than) harmonious backdrop to the torrent of creation.

So, perhaps, coffee shops, no matter how strong my romantic notion or compulsion to over come is, simply are not conducive to my creative flow (to steal a cliche).  An idea that I do have trouble accepting, to be beaten down by the sounds of coffee, while simultaneously being beckoned and coaxed into the warm arms of a hot beverage and the delightful sights of cakes I can’t eat. Only to give in and then slid into the plush chair by the window overlooking the rain drenched streets and enjoying the warmth as it spreads throughout my body.

Do you write in coffee shops?
Can you write in coffee shops?
Do you have any inspiring places?

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