You see it so often, writers sitting in cafés with either a notebook or a lap top in front of them. Many writers confess to regularly writing in cafés. Natalie Goldberg recommends it. Why and how does it work?
Part of the answer may be that writers finding themselves alone in cafés may well spend the time there writing. Why not? We have to make the most of every opportunity, don’t we?
Also, a café full of people is a place to find good ideas. People- watching is really important for writers.
A third, slightly less obvious reason, is that it combats the writer’s sense of isolation. They are sitting there, out in the world, so they no longer have to worry about what is happening in the world. That part of their brain is satisfied so the rest of it can concentrate on the writing.
Cafés do provide a nice atmosphere to work in. There’s the soothing mumble of voices, the smell and the taste of the coffee, the swoosh of the coffee machines and the temptation of the pretty cakes – even if you resist sampling them it’s nice to know they’re there.
I personally don’t often write in a café but I do revise and I do make notes there. When I attend the SCBWI critique group in Manchester, I get into town early and sit in Druckers with a pile of manuscripts, a pot of Earl Grey and a slice of traditional apple cake and portion of ice cream. For the Chester group I use the crypt café in the cathedral. It is soothing knowing the world is there.
I remember having lunch in a little café in the south of France once. There was a writer at the next table, lunching alone, and between mouthfuls jotting down lines of poetry. It seemed he needed the people around him - and the food and drink – in order to be able to write.
Once when I was jotting down a few notes in a café the anxious owner hovered around, asking if everything was all right and whether I needed another coffee. I’m sure he thought I was writing about his café.
Writers have met and written in cafés for years. Musing by Moonlight sums this up nicely.