I’ve always struggled to write while sitting in a coffee shop. I’ve tried, but I rarely write anything of quality while in one. I’m distracted by the conversations I overhear. I find myself watching how people interact with each other or developing a curiosity about the work they’re doing.
Listening and watching aren’t bad things; in fact, they’re essential to the writing life. Another person’s conversation or actions often are my gain. They can fuel my writing. They can increase my understanding of human nature. Listening and watching, then, are good, but they sometimes impede the actual act of writing.
If I want to write anything that meets or exceeds my standards, I have to find a solitary place. I may allow a few people to populate that place, but those people usually respect my space. They can’t look over my shoulder. They can’t try to peek at what I’m writing. They have to wait until I’m ready to share my writing with them.
I suppose that could make me seem elitist. I probably seem that way to some people. I don’t intend to be. I don’t mind talking about my writing with people; I welcome questions about my writing process and interests. Such questions usually tell me that that person actually has some interest in me and what I do. I simply struggle to write in the presence of others. I feel as though I’ve been put on display, and it’s excruciating to try to write when I feel that way. It’s one thing to put my writing on display; it’s quite another to put the act of writing on that display.
Of course, nobody at the coffee shop really cares what I’m doing. Other people are there with their laptops or pads of paper and pencils. It’s still not my optimal writing location. I need the quiet. I need the space.
Where do you do your most productive writing? Do you have a favorite spot or two?
This post originally was published in October 2011.
Image: Angie Garrett (CC BY 2.0)