If you are one of those lucky writers who work best at home, God Bless, you can stop reading right here. But if you’re like me and have finally accepted the fact that you write poorly at home, read on.
Every serious out-of-the-house writer needs a coffee cluster — a minimum of three, but preferably four, cafes, all of which welcome writers and are within a short walk of one another. Of course, some out-of-the-house writers will think this is crazy. They like their café. They’ve been going there for years – they’re written a whole novel in that spot for heaven’s sake. A coffee cluster is just nonsense. More power to these people, I say.
But to those of you who might be on the fence, here are the top ten reasons why a coffee cluster can be a writer’s best friend.
1. YOU ALWAYS GET A SEAT
We’ve all had this happen, right? You open the door to today’s coffee shop and realize immediately the place is packed. One turn around the room yields not a single seat and worse yet, there’s a line of cappuccino-holding patrons hovering for the next table. You only have two hours to write and you’ve already used ten minutes getting to this café. And you’ve fed the parking meter or spent money getting there on the T, so you’re committed to this spot. With a coffee cluster, you never have to wait for a seat. Just walk down the block to the next café.
2. YOU MUST HAVE INTERNET
Yesterday you wrote in one of your favorite coffee shops but internet is pricey there so you didn’t sign up and missed the email announcing the change of plans in your kid’s carpool and your first grader was left waiting on the curb.
You also desperately need to research the terrible accident your character has in a coalmine, or the physics of time travel. You cannot make headway on the next scene without it. Head to the cafe in your cluster with free internet.
3. YOU MUST NOT HAVE INTERNET
Now that you’ve exhausted yourself with the details of time travel or are feeling sick over the gruesomeness of mining accidents, your research is deteriorating into shopping for shoes on Zappos.
Step away from temptation. Walk around the block to the NO_INTERNET café.
4. AVOID DISTRACTIONS
Today you’ve snagged a great seat at your local coffee shop but then a young woman joins a man at the table next to you. He asks if her name is Cathy. She nods and they start in with small talk. At first you think it’s a match.com date, which is distracting enough, but it turns out that Cathy is really there on a college interview.
Despite your earplugs or headphones, Cathy’s anxiety and the awkwardness of the interviewer are palpable, as is the fact that your daughter is a junior in high school and you can’t help thinking how she would answer these questions. Don’t waste precious writing energy fighting distractions when escape is only a block away.
5. DITCH OVERLY-FRIENDLY REGULARS WITHOUT HURTING THEIR FEELINGS
You’ve frequented your local coffee shop so often that the regulars begin to misunderstand your friendliness as friendship and they’re sitting down to chat.
Despite your better judgment, you chatted back, a little bit, once – which encouraged them and now they completely miss the hint when you pull out your laptop and start to write. Pretty soon you are stuck wasting more valuable writing energy fending these people off and thinking up polite ways to say, “Please God, leave me alone.” Luckily you know what to do.
6. YOU MUST HAVE PEACE AND QUIET
You have a terrible headache, or it’s the end of a hellish workday but you’ve made the commitment to write for an hour. You even put it in your planner. But when you open the door to your usual café, you walk into a group of college alums in town for reunion weekend. They are laughing and snorting and telling way too many stories about the number of times they threw up at that party sophomore year.
Don’t use this as an excuse not to write. Leave the scene and walk to the next café.
7. YOU MUST HAVE NOISE
It’s a beautiful day outside and your coffee shop is just too damn quiet. You are certain you’re the only person in the world stuck inside writing a truly pathetic story.
Not to mention that the quiet is putting you to sleep.
You desperately need some noise, some buzz, some crowd energy to keep going, but today this place has none of it. By all means get up and walk down the street.
8. ESCAPE BAD WRITING KARMA
You’ve had five bad writing days in a row at your local coffee shop. Nothing is working, your dialogue stinks, your characters are so flat they act like they’ve been run over by a paving truck. The bad writing karma has seeped into the walls of your coffee shop and every day you return there you are reminded that you’ll never finish this dreadful book.
You lack the necessary talent. In fact, you suck at writing. Please leave this place immediately! Start fresh around the block.
9. AVOID THE TEMPTATION OF FRIENDS
God forbid your actual friends show up in the coffee shop where you’re working.
Even if they’re respectful and don’t want to interfere with your writing, the truth is writing is a lonely business and you haven’t seen your friends nearly enough. So you waste an hour trying to write when you’re really fighting with yourself over whether you can justify ditching today’s writing goals. Give it up. Either be social or ward off temptation by leaving the scene and walking to the friendless café.
10. A BUILT-IN BREAK AND GOOD EXERCISE
You’re working on your novel and a blog post. The post is due in two days, so you start with that and get all involved. When it’s time to move onto your novel, it’s really hard to switch gears. Just the thought of starting into your novel feels like a long, steep, uphill climb.
So you dilly dally and waste way more time than you need to on your post. Stop. Put away your blog, pack up your stuff, go for a walk and start fresh in the next café. Yes, this costs more money. Yes, you have to buy another coffee and tip generously. But sometimes it’s worth it.
If you’re convinced that you, too, need a coffee cluster, stay tuned for the next installment — favorite coffee clusters and where to find them.