How to Pick a Café for Writing

Just ask yourself the following questions…

Do they offer carrot muffins with carrot cake frosting? If they do, how do you feel about that? If they don’t, do you have a second-choice and third-choice dessert as a back-up plan? Do you even like dessert? Am I asking too many questions when I was planning to ask only one regarding this subject?

Do they have free Wifi?

Is the location nice? Are you looking for something closer to or farther from home?

What impression do the people sitting in there make? When does it fill up? Are there enough tables?

Maybe do a test run without your laptop first. Are the tables a comfortable height for working? Is there a counter with chairs that’s also comfortable? What do the seats feel like? Is there enough distance between tables, or you’re fine either way? Is there enough light? Do people respect each other’s space? Are there other people in there writing, studying, in headphones etc.? Is it noisy? Some noise is to be expected, like chatting, doors opening and closing, the baristas and waiters doing their jobs, people asking questions and placing orders, equipment etc. Can you tune it out, or you don’t mind?

Is the service friendly? If it isn’t, but you still get what you need and it tastes like it should, does it matter? Maybe it polishes your sarcasm skills, which are not entirely impractical when you might have to deal with other people approaching you (the drama), but more on that later.

All the possible questions asked? Time to pack up your stuff and when your friends ask you what you got up to over the weekend, just say nonchalantly, “Oh, you know, I went off to create a masterpiece that will put an end to all the stupidity in the world once people read it.”


Musings While Writing in a Café

After some saving up I bought my first little laptop. It was a fantastic feeling to be able to take it with me on a trip for the first time and be independent as far as communication with family and friends, blogging and writing were concerned. It was also nice to share it when my sister and I were in Tokyo and type away on it during my trip to Iceland.

Now that I’ve name-dropped a few fancy destinations I loved visiting, let’s get to the topic at hand. Laptops are great for travel, but they are also great when you start writing  outside of home. This has been a bit of a learning process for me, because, surprise, surprise, it took a while for me to catch up on offers besides Starbucks or build up to writing in a café in the first place.

I walked into my chosen café today and stopped to do the usual scan of the perimeter – it’s later in the morning and I’m slightly worried every table will be taken, but I’m in luck. There’s a free one by one of the large floor-length windows. A long couch seat spans the width of the window and three tables are placed alongside it. One is occupied by a girl in headphones who is immersed in her own little laptop – bless her. The next one is free as well, but there’s a newspaper lying on the tabletop, so I leave it and take the table I spotted first. I put my coat down to mark my territory and start deciding on a beverage, when there’s movement to my side and chatting.

A middle-aged man has arrived, smiling and clearly thinking he should say something to everyone nearby. It’s OK – I just don’t want to join! I smile politely, get my drink, sit down and start silently setting up, because he settles down, shifts around in his seat, grunts, says “Well…” at every page turn of his newspaper and I just know that if I don’t plug my headphones in NOW, I’ll lose precious minutes of the morning I’d been looking forward to for several days.

I love writing at home – there are no distractions, even though there can be, but everything is so familiar that it blends seamlessly with my concentration. I can write in my PJs, I can write at the desk, on my bed, on the floor, I don’t have to watch my stuff and the fridge is (usually) stocked. I can take a nap when I need to and I can be as introverted as I like. Obviously this all differs a little depending on your household, but in general it’s true.

BUT, and there is a but, I do need fresh air and people watching, because otherwise the writing won’t be authentic and a change of scene is always invigorating both for concentration and inspiration. Writing in a café also takes you slightly outside of your comfort zone, if you’ve been used to writing at home or enjoy being a homebody, or, rather, it trains you in finding your comfort zone anywhere and making adjustments if something doesn’t feel right. It’s also a good solution until you get that dream writing office with an exit straight into a beautiful garden whenever you need a break…and definitely a good place to dream.