One of the beauties of being a writer is the convenience of a virtual office anywhere, everywhere. Since embarking on my “365 Life Clubs Project,” life hasn’t slowed down to accommodate my daily obligation to whip out an essay and post it for a universal critique. In the last 158 days, I’ve found myself writing wherever I’ve had the opportunity. Twice I’ve written at the E.R. Another time I wrote early in the morning in a hotel in Philadelphia. Once a week I write in the playground of my daughter’s school. I wrote at Central Park and Prospect Park and in the car while I waited for my kittens to get neutered. Even without my laptop, whenever a few minutes presents itself, I’m scribbling in my notebook-du-jour or dictating into my phone.
Today I’m writing from Starbucks specifically for the sake of official initiation into THAT club. While I prefer to be left alone to my word crafting, after long stretches of solitude, I yearn for the glamorized idea of writing at a Starbucks-type locale. I envision a warm ambiance welcoming me, like a friendly hug, with a crackling fireplace (even in mid-June). It smells of cinnamon cappuccino and soft French music plays in the background. Literary scholars (or wannabes) sit around the repurposed wood tables and iron high stools and type ferociously, expelling brilliance onto the lit screens. Somehow channeling the historical collective of the generations of authors before us, many of whom sat around drinking coffee and banging out words, seeking inspiration or camaraderie from fellow artists or from humanity.
The fantasy is often sexier than the act brought to fruition and writing at Starbucks is no exception. Instead of the cozy fire, the air-conditioning turned the tips of my fingers numb despite the scorching, extra bold bitter coffee I sip through the hole in the plastic lid. The caffeine is palpable; I feel my heart beat faster, my eyes widen and my fingers type in a frenzy, but it is not enough to warm me up. I gaze longingly at the bench outside, thinking the 75-degree evening air would be a welcome respite from this torturous temperature. Maybe they keep it this cold to balance the burning coffee temperatures? Maybe they keep it this cold as a technological courtesy for all the computer users?
Writing at Starbucks turns out to be a pure distraction. Surrounded by constant activity and a new environment, my journalist instincts tempt me to babble for hours describing the customers, the over enthusiastic, yet phony workers, and the small nuances of a generic mass produced coffee shop, but this would result in no story. Furthermore, with windows surrounding the place, the Manhattan pedestrian traffic is the ultimate writing diversion. It’s a high-end fashion magazine meets the eleven o’clock news and it’s streaming in front of me on parade. I sit behind tinted glass, protected by a sunglass-like disguise and feel free to ogle out my window without repercussion.
Of course, it was a matter of time before an over-aged hipster came in to charge his phone and sat down next to me. His body odor trumped the coffee. It was less than three minutes before I heard, “Excuse me, I was wondering what kind of editing program you’re using.”
He interpreted my headphones and deliberate eye contact avoidance to mean, “questions welcome.” I answered him politely and took this as my queue to leave.
I haven’t abandoned the idea of writing at coffee shops entirely. I think my career will yield plenty of opportunities to caff-it-up and write surrounded by others scribes anxious to emerge, if only temporarily, from their lone writer caves. For now, I’ll stick with my comfy home office, open all hours, no dress code, and the temperature never dips below 75 degrees!