On Coffee Shops

Yesterday I sat in a coffee shop reading On Stories, a collection of C.S. Lewis’ essays, reading Miyazaki’s manga Nausicaa, and editing my story.  After sitting for two hours, I realized something I ought to have realized long ago—coffee shops are excellent work spaces for writers.  When I sit too long at my desk, I am distracted by internet, clutter, and other books.  But when I’m in a coffee shop, the distraction is different.  The continual grinding of coffee and ice and the sounds of jazz rolling softly from the speakers create background noise.  People walk in and out, chatting with friends and tampering with their coffee by adding sugars and creamers.  They are all part of the atmosphere.  I can choose either to ignore them—they are complete strangers after all—or I can sit and observe.  They draw me out of my own little world and remind me how natural human interaction works.  Sometimes, as I sit typing away in my room, I forget.  I need that spark of connection to remind me how people act when they are nervous, confident, joyful, etc.  Being around people as I write keeps my characters from becoming wooden.

Of course, this is not preferable for all writing sessions.  It is good to sit in my room to chop at unnecessary words or tweak a transition, but I need to people watch—the business men looking over a spreadsheet, the couple by the window, the baristi joking behind the counter—they refresh my mind as I sculpt my work.

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