Short Story Slump: Writer-Cafe Symbiosis

The end has come.  Sort of.  Mostly.  Almost.

What I mean is, I have most of a dissertation put together into some semblance of coherency.  It’s stuffed full of footnotes and overbrimming with Welsh and Irish quotes and even has thoughts and ideas and things I learned this year worked into it. I’m just that brilliant.

For this last post on sharing ways to turn yourself into a short story writing machine, I am going to talk about something that is partially responsible for me surviving the dissertation and something I plan to continue whenever I hit a writing snag.  Most of you have probably done it before, but maybe you’ve forgotten how useful it can be.

  • Adopt a Cafe

Many writers, when they hit a roadblock, will pack up their laptop, or paper and pen, or typewriter, or whatever it is that they use to transfer idea to written form (reverse osmosis, anyone?), and head to a favorite coffee shop, whether it’s a little hole in the wall that serves oddly named beverages and plays funky music, or a big old Starbucks with the familiar, complicated drinks and free Wi-Fi and bustling, unending crowd.

You know those days when climbing into your wardrobe seems like the best solution for your current writing woes?

Shutting yourself up in your room while you write can work, but for a lot of us, the cabin fever can do weird things to a story.  Suddenly, the characters are acting twitchy and bipolar or the plot is taking dramatically unpredictable turns.  Or you just mysteriously find yourself on YouTube watching cat videos with no idea how you got there…

Something about a cafe makes writing start happening and, for me, the words begin to flow all on their own.  Maybe it’s the mingling smells of hot drinks or the people filtering in and out in the background or the views from the windows or a particularly welcoming chair that had better be empty when I get there.

A cafe feels like an indulgence, rather than work.  I order a pot of my favorite tea and maybe a croissant or a scone if I’m feeling particularly deserving.  I allot myself a certain amount of time to write (which adds a sense of urgency and down-to-business-ness), put my own music on (a special playlist that is perfectly constructed to feed my muse) and get writing.

How could this NOT be inspiring?

It has worked quite well for my dissertation, in fact.  When my room gets too small and quiet and distracting or the library gets too schoolish, I head to a cafe.  One of my favorite places is called The Elephant House, famous in Edinburgh as the ‘Birthplace of Harry Potter’ since JK Rowling supposedly all but lived in a corner of the cafe and wrote the first book there.  Anyone who lives here knows that’s utter nonsense and she only wrote there occasionally.  However, the bright red exterior with its golden sign in the window proclaiming its association to Rowling has drawn crowds of tourists to the place.

Why do I like it?  Because their tea is delicious and the atmosphere is wonderful.  Do I also cherish the dream of one day seeing The Elephant House bragging about how once wrote there?  Oh, not at all.  Really.

The Elephant House is full of… wait for it… elephants! They lurk in pretty much every corner… kind of creepily…

If you’re stuck in your story or you want to start one up, try treating yourself to an afternoon in a cafe that suits your tastes.  Order your favorite drink and maybe a sugary snack.  Settle into a comfy chair or find that perfect table by the window and set to work.  The cafe gets your business (and possibly fame by association – let’s be optimistic!) and you get the inspiration of a warm, richly scented atmosphere that simply begs for a story to be composed on its premises.

Do you have a favorite cafe that makes all your writing dreams come true?  And also has an epic, tried and true beverage? Where do you go when you need to get out and write somewhere else?

(And am I the only one who thinks it would be gloriously funny if people took a picture of a random cafe one day just because I was in it?)


7 thoughts on “Short Story Slump: Writer-Cafe Symbiosis

  1. I absolutely loved this post, Melissa, for several reasons: because you mentioned J.K. Rowling, because there’s a fabulous-looking picture of tea, and because I need the inspiration, since I will be starting a dissertation sometime in the relatively near future. (Right now, I just need the inspiration to write regular class papers.) Now I just need to convince someone with money that it’s essentially that I write my dissertation in Edinburgh! That would automatically ratchet up the inspiration level exponentially.

    1. Well if you can somehow come by the means to come to Edinburgh, I am sure it will help the dissertation writing process. This place is excellent for writing! If not, taking photo walks, listening to good music, and those regular cafe visits will help a lot!

  2. I don’t usually write in a cafe, but I think I may start doing that now. I’ve written in one before for NaNoWriMo one year, and it worked splendidly.

  3. You can definitely find me in a Starbucks, working hard on my writing but I secretly dream of being in an old pub, madly scribbling in a corner, safely sheltered from the real world. Until that happens, I’m enjoying the air conditioning and internet. Two things I sadly lack at home.

    1. Those little old pubs definitely have their charm. But there are the odd little cafes here and there that have something of that sense of cozy, escape-from-the-world-ness. You just have to track one down. But Starbucks will do in a pinch and wi-fi counts for a lot!

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