I’m not much of a coffee drinker. In fact I usually can’t stand the stuff, aside from the rare iced vanilla latte. I know, I know – blasphemy! As a writer, I’m supposed to run entirely on caffeine, ink, and more caffeine. I’m supposed to have a manically scribbled notebook in one hand and three mochas in the other, gulping them all at the same time as my late-night eyes bug out over the cups. But nope, not me.
Yet as much as I don’t care for coffee, I do like coffee shops.
Right this moment, I am typing from a multi-colored couch on the even more multi-colored patio of a little indie coffee shop. Everywhere I look there’s a new hue: teal stones border the brick floor, tropical flower-printed cushions sit on the chairs, shiny glass orbs in red and purple hang from an awning. Stained glass of every stripe from the rainbow compose the backdrop of a small stage. A fountain burbles nearby and from an antique bird cage comes the chirps of its inhabitants.
Quirky vendors like this one are great, but I’ll take a Starbucks too. I’m not a snob. There’s just something about coffee shops in general that helps nudge my creativity, and here’s why:
There’s a come-and-go energy to a coffeehouse. New people arrive, leave, arrive again – always changing but not chaotic. There’s a hum of noise and activity that is noticeable but doesn’t overwhelm—the scooping of ice, the buzz of an espresso machine, the various conversations that pool together into one seamless sound. It makes me both relaxed yet alert.
And what does all this do for me as a writer? It distracts my surface-level brain just enough for my deeper brain to work.
One of my struggles when I’m writing is perfectionism and overthinking. When the room’s too quiet, my inner critic’s voice fills the space. With nothing else to focus on, I hone in too closely on my own words. The ever-shifting ambiance of a coffeehouse provides just enough distraction to keep my mind from thinking too much about itself, but not so much that it can’t think at all. My conscious is given something to pay attention to, so my subconscious can stretch its legs a little. At a coffee shop, that subtle pushing energy of the come-and-go customers pushes my mind along with it. I fall into a flow.
This same environment could be achieved elsewhere, but it’s not as fundamental as it is to coffeehouses. They welcome it. A culture has developed within them. (True, that culture can be a bit pretentious at times, but just ignore that guy in the beret who keeps mumbling “screenplay” to himself.) Step into any one and you’ll see regular Joes and Jills plunking away at keyboards, or highlighting textbooks, or absorbing paperbacks as they sip their cappuccinos. The people themselves have become part of the ambiance.
It also helps to simply get out of the house and see something different. That minute breaking of the norm unlocks my creative juices, gives them a little stir. As I twirl my straw around my cup, something else is twirling away inside me.
Tell me, how do you feel about writing in coffee shops? What other environments have you found conducive to creativity?